Film Florida says state has lost $1.5B in business since film program lapsed

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Lawmakers could flip the script with a new tax rebate program.

Florida has missed out on more than $1.5 billion in film, television and digital media business since the state’s program to attract production companies expired, according to Film Florida.

The topline figure comes from the statewide trade association’s “Lost Business Map,” which was recently updated with another batch of “known lost opportunities.”

All told, the Film Florida map lists nearly 100 projects that would have used more than 250,000 hotel room nights and provided more than 125,000 cast and crew roles for Floridians. Two years ago, Film Florida’s tally included about 70 projects that would have spent a combined $1.3 billion in the state.

The map lists several films and television shows that would have been set in Florida. They include “Florida Girls,” a television series that ended up being shot in Savannah, Georgia, and Magic Mike XXL, which was filmed in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“We continue to lose projects because Florida is at a competitive disadvantage. It’s extremely frustrating to lose out to Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Georgia and others. Florida has handed $1.5 billion to other states and we just want to compete,” Film Florida President Gail Morgan said.

“When an average feature film or television series films in a location, they spend $20 million in the local community while hiring 1,500 Floridians. One single production can spend $150,000 per day, with that cash going directly in the pockets of citizens and small businesses, which is what we want for our state.”

The update from Film Florida comes as lawmakers once again consider launching a new, state-backed program to attract the media production industry to the Sunshine State. They note that Florida is the only state in the Southeast — and one of just 17 states in the U.S. — without a program to compete for film, television and digital projects.

Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters is sponsoring the Senate version (SB 946), with a bipartisan coalition of 15 senators joining him as co-sponsors. Fort Pierce Republican Rep. Dana Trabulsy serves as the lead sponsor on the House bill (HB 217), which has more than two dozen co-sponsors.

Similar to the proposals in the 2021 and 2020 Legislative Sessions, the 2022 pitch would offer production companies as much as $2 million in tax rebates, but only once a project is completed and only if it meets certain criteria. Requirements include hiring 70% of cast and crew from Florida.

Both bills are backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida TaxWatch, Associated Industries of Florida and other business groups.

“The demand for film and TV programs is higher than ever before. We believe that content should be made in Florida, creating jobs, pumping new money from outside Florida into our economy and enhancing tourism,” Film Florida Executive Director John Lux said.

“The industry produces high-wage jobs, the type of jobs that will help as we continue to grow and diversify Florida’s economy. These jobs are leaving high-tax states like California and New York, and we should be embracing these jobs, not pushing them to other states. The goal is to level the playing field so we can compete.”

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee advanced Gruters’ bill on Jan. 10 and it now awaits a hearing in the Senate Finance and Tax Committee. Trabulsy’s bill has received committee assignments but has not yet been scheduled for its first stop in the House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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    January 25, 2022 at 4:21 pm

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    January 26, 2022 at 8:31 am

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  • Rocky Eagleton

    January 26, 2022 at 9:46 am

    Nice Job Desantes!
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  • Michelle C

    January 27, 2022 at 1:50 pm

    Florida should be the capital of or at least at the top of locations for the film industry. It’s ridiculous we are losing projects to other southern states. Shame on the lawmakers for losing the business, but kudos to those legislators trying to bring it back where it belongs.

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