HBO, Netflix to film in Florida without tax incentives

By William Patrick, Florida Watchdog.org

Florida’s six-year, $296 million entertainment incentive program expired June 30, and already two major productions have committed to filming without new tax giveaways.

HBO announced last week it would produce a third season of its hit series Ballers, which takes place in “sun-soaked Miami.” The second season began July 17, with its first episode attracting 5.7 million viewers, according to Casey Bloys, president of programming.

The projects defy warnings from state legislators and film industry advocates who for several years pushed for an expanded tax credit program.

A Ballers advertisement featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson appears atop the homepage of the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment, the state’s economic development agency for the entertainment industry.

It helped finance the first season of Ballers – 64 production days – to the tune of $6.8 million in tax credits.

Earlier in July, Netflix announced it would produce a third season of its Florida Keys-based original series Bloodline. Netflix received $8 million in tax incentives for the 122 production days of Bloodline’s first season.

Incentive totals for the second seasons of Ballers and Bloodline were not listed in Office of Film and Entertainment annual reports. A request from Watchdog.org was not immediately returned.

Both projects received state financial commitments before the six-year incentive program, established in 2010, blew through its entire $296 million credit allowance in its first three years.

The program’s first-come-first serve basis proved a major flaw as resources were allotted too quickly. Hopes of additional funding were finally dashed when the program expired one month ago.

Film Florida, a statewide entertainment association, marked the end of the expired tax incentive program as a senseless betrayal.

“The legislature’s ultimate decision to officially abandon our film, television and digital media professionals has our entire industry and supporters outraged,” said former president Michelle Hillery.

John Lux, executive director of Film Florida, said, “The state legislature sent a very clear signal that they are not interested in continuing to improve the economic growth the state has seen and that is unfortunate.”

But HBO and Netflix’s production announcements run contrary to such concerns that large film and television companies would avoid the Sunshine State without government assistance.

Read more at Watchdog.org. 

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