'Avatar' tax break a win-win for film studio, New Zealand
LOS ANGELES — In the old days, filmmakers flocked to Hollywood for its abundant sunshine, beautiful people and sandy beaches. But today, a new filmmaking diaspora is spreading across the globe to places like Vancouver, London and Wellington, New Zealand.
Fueled by politicians doling out generous tax breaks, filmmaking talent is migrating to where the money is. The result is an incentives arms race that pits California against governments around the world and allows powerful studios — with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal — to cherry-pick the best deals.
The most recent iteration of the phenomenon occurred this month when James Cameron announced plans to shoot and produce the next three “Avatar” sequels largely in New Zealand. What Cameron gets out of the deal is a 25 percent rebate on production costs, as long as his company spends at least $413 million on the three films.
“There's no place in the world that we could make these sequels more cost-effectively,” producer Jon Landau said. It is neither the archipelago's volcanoes nor its glaciers that are attractive because the “Avatar” movies will be shot indoors.
Sure, Peter Jackson's award-winning special effects infrastructure is there, but the deciding factor was the money. “We looked at other places,” Landau said. But in the end, “it was this rebate.”
In exchange, the local economy will benefit hugely, Landau said, comparing the ripple effect with the boost that comes from new home construction. “We're doing lumber, we're catering for hundreds of people a day. We're housing people in hotels. We're going to a stationery store and tripling their business in a year.”
The deal was “the best Christmas present we could have possibly hoped for,” said Alex Lee, an Auckland, New Zealand-based entertainment lawyer.
The news is especially welcome because the local screen industry is experiencing a potential drought: The Starz pay-TV series “Spartacus” finished this year, and Jackson's “The Hobbit” trilogy is set to wrap next year. Thanks to the “Avatar” sequels, the 1,100 workers at Weta Digital Ltd., the ground-breaking digital effects house Jackson co-founded in 1993, can keep plugging away through 2018.
“It would have been a real shame if we had lost any of that talent and they had to move to follow the films,” Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Federal agency checking whether Highmark has enough doctors in Medicare plan
- Lower gasoline prices fail to spur consumer spending
- Retailers that won’t open on Thanksgiving hope move pays off
- Small businesses’ dilemma: Keep costly health care coverage or lose talented workers
- Google applies tech to medical device
- Westinghouse to construct colossal nuke plant in Turkey
- Oil prices continue descent, dragging market indexes lower
- Thanksgiving deals called the best
- Household debt on the rise after 5-year decline
- Axed contracts push doctors from network, UPMC says
- Housing prices nudge upward as more homes on market