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Film tax credit's sequel: Subsidizing stage shows

| Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
U2 performs for fans as part of their Joshua Tree Tour at Heinz Field in June (Trib photo)
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
U2 performs for fans as part of their Joshua Tree Tour at Heinz Field in June (Trib photo)

Pennsylvania's film tax credit program, wasting about $60 million annually, has a winner-picking sequel: a similar program for touring productions that build, rehearse and perform stage shows in the state.

A law passed last summer that Philly.com says “has finally kicked into gear” primarily benefits firms in tiny Lititz, Lancaster County. It became “a hotbed of production expertise 51 years ago” with a couple's “pioneering work” on sound systems. A British stage-building firm arrived in 1978, followed by a scenic-design firm in the early 1990s and others since, working for such acts as Beyonce, Bruno Mars, U2, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Roger Waters and AC/DC.

Credits worth “up to $800,000” can “scale higher if they play in secondary and third-tier markets such as Allentown and Lancaster” under the legislation, which Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, introduced. His chief of staff hopes $4 million in first-year credits will rise to $10 million annually.

This industry did well in Lititz for decades without these tax credits. Yet last summer, lawmakers suddenly decided tax credits were needed — despite such concert acts pricing their best tickets in the high triple digits and their “cheap seats” being anything but cheap.

These acts can afford their concert spectacles on their own. There's no good reason why taxpayers should subsidize them. This tax-credit production's $4 million opener deserves to be panned. And if lawmakers produce a $10 million encore, taxpayers should boo it offstage.

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