NY vs. NJ: The State of New York Boosts Incentive Program
Recently, New York Governor Kathy Hochul proposed changes to the state’s incentive program, as no fewer than 10 productions were lost to their New Jersey neighbors over the past two years. According to the 2023 state budget, the NY Film and TV Tax Credit cap will be raised from $400 million to a whopping $700 million. In addition, the actual incentive will be raised to 30% after it was lowered to 20% in 2020. Another big addition to this proposal is with above-the-line wage tax break eligibility, which would be limited to 40% and capped at $500,000 per individual. This proposal's inclusion follows a similar move by the state of Illinois, which now allows some nonresident wages to qualify for its program. Now, California is the only state to include similar wage tax breaks. According to Empire State Development spokesperson Kristin Devoe, “The proposed enhancement of the film tax credit will grow the film industry and keep New York competitive in this very important sector of our economy which has generated over $20 billion in spending and created 57,300 direct and indirect jobs.” This new proposal also addresses a common complaint about the program by clarifying payout and eligibility rules. It’s also focused on encouraging existing TV series to relocate to New York by giving those with a $1 million-per-episode budget a 5% bump for the move. California has a similar initiative, which reserved $15 million for TV shows that filmed a pilot in another state. While New Jersey reached record high production revenue in 2022 (thanks to its neighbor’s incentive program drop), New York is preparing to catch up, constructing new soundstages in Buffalo to deal with the anticipated demand.
High-End U.K. Investment: BFI Reveals Record Production in 2022
The British Film Institute shared new information about the state of its local industry in 2022. According to the latest figures, investment in the industry reached a new high last year with $7.72 billion (£6.27 billion)–£1.83 billion more than the previous record set in 2019. Of this number, 69% comes from investment in HETV, or high-end television. Film production investment in 2022 came to £1.97 billion. Although production investment was at an all-time high last year, independent film saw some losses, marking a 31% decrease from 2021. Even so, independent co-productions saw a slight 3% boost in investment over this period. For all film production, inward investment made up 88% of the total £1.97 billion spend, and domestic U.K. films made up only 8% (a significant decrease from 2021 numbers). The total number of films that went into production in the U.K. was 220, which is 11 more than in 2021. U.S. studio films made an impact in 2022 with a £1.36 billion investment for projects like Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Two, Fast X, and Magic Mike’s Last Dance. International streamers also played a pivotal role in the increased investment, not only with series, but with the creation of long-form content. Big-name single streaming productions, like Steve McQueen’s Blitz, Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, and Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, represented a 23% increase from 2021. Box office revenue for last year regained some momentum, but still fell below pre-pandemic levels, with 117.3 million admissions (which is more than 50 million shy of 2019's highest admission numbers). BFI Chief Executive Ben Roberts believes that these numbers reveal the strength of U.K. film. To keep the passion for creativity alive in the industry, he believes that there needs to be a new focus on sustaining the independent sector.
Surprise Nominations: The Academy Awards To Change Campaign Rules
Last week, the nominations for the 95th Academy Awards were released, and one of the most surprising inclusions was found in the Best Actress category. Andrea Riseborough, nominated for her role in the film To Leslie, took everyone by surprise with her unexpected showing. How did someone from a film that had flown largely under the commercial and critical radar land amongst the mainstream heavy hitters? Curious eyes quickly turned to her awards campaign, which was reviewed by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to ensure fairness. Academy CEO Bill Kramer shared that the committee has decided not to rescind the nomination but did find cause for concern with Riseborough’s social media and outreach campaign. While these tactics are being addressed directly with the parties responsible, the Academy plans to clear the air by releasing new campaign guidelines in the coming weeks. The To Leslie campaign was flagged for being overly aggressive, as A-list celebrities like Gwenyth Paltrow and Kate Winslet took to social media to compliment the performance right before voting for the category began. Because of this uptick in attention, Riseborough's nomination took a spot that many had expected to see occupied by actors such as Viola Davis (The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till). There was also some critical debate about category diversity as well. Kramer solidified the Academy’s decision by redistributing the organization’s rules, Standards of Conduct, and existing campaign regulations, advising members not to discuss how they voted in order to persuade others. The new campaign framework will be released after this awards cycle, though no date has been provided thus far.
Content Quotas: Australia To Boost Local Content on Streaming Platforms
By mid-2024, Australia will require streaming platforms to meet a quota for local content, ensuring that regional voices won’t be drowned out by the plethora of U.S. projects available on international streamers. This new policy is part of the country’s “Revive” plan, which hopes to reset its cultural image over the next five years. A large part of this strategy is focused on amplifying First Nations voices. With the rise of streaming, audiences in Australia are more likely to watch content on platforms than on local broadcasts, and these international outlets are currently not required to invest in local productions. The policy is also a result of the belief that streaming has negatively impacted broadcasting and independent producers, arguing that “the number of commissioned children’s titles fell from fourteen in 2019–20 to seven in 2020–21 because of the removal of content quotas on free-to-air television.” The government has not offered a specific quota, as further discussions regarding the streaming industry will be held in 2023, but the policy could potentially require a minimum investment in local content by streamers as well as obligations to ensure that this content is properly “discoverable” on the platform. Netflix has weighed in on this new policy and looks forward to working with Australia and the Revive program to create a sustainable regulation. Screen Producers Australia, a local lobby group, advocates for a 20% investment in local content from streamers. A new government body called Creative Australia is being established to restore the Australia Council of the Arts for the care and protection of local content in the modern age of streaming.
Network Moves: Showtime and Paramount+ Plan To Merge
After months of speculation, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish shared plans to merge Paramount+ and Showtime. The linear channel Showtime and premium Paramount+ tier will be rebranded as “Paramount+ with Showtime.” In this new model, Chris McCarthy will lead the linear channel and Tom Ryan will oversee the streaming business. Bakish’s memo also acknowledged the amount of uncertainty that this move may bring, expressing confidence that the decision will bring new opportunities. As for those customers who subscribe to both Showtime and Paramount+, new pricing numbers and information on how to merge your accounts will be made available soon. Original programming will see a number of changes as well. Showtime is currently home to many high-profile television programs, and while Paramount and Showtime audiences are complimentary, investments in underperforming content will be limited during the merger. McCarthy said that the content accounting for less than 10% of all viewership runs the risk of no longer being supported by the new premium cable channel. This move and strategy shift allows Paramount to compete with big players like Netflix, Disney, and Warner Bros. Discovery. Warner Bros. Discovery, which announced its merger last year, has been undergoing changes as well, consolidating the HBO channel with its wider streaming offerings.
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