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Movie CameraAt the risk of sounding like a broken record and a Debbie Downer, I want to point out the costs to taxpayers of having Amazing Spider-Man 2 film in Rochester and New York State.

The Democrat and Chronicle reported the movie production, in town for the next week and a half to film car chase scenes on Main Street, will boost the local economy:

Columbia Pictures is sending 200 crew members to Rochester over the period of the shoot. Filmmakers also have hired 250 local crew members and 150 local extras, Empire State Development’s film office said Sunday.

Over the course of the filming, including advanced scouting, filmmakers estimated they would need 3,000 hotel nights and spend an additional $400,000 on local vendors, $120,000 on craft service and $120,000 on restaurant meals, the film office said.

The city of Rochester said Friday the filmmakers will pay overtime hours for three to nine firefighters each day of the shoot and up to 100 police officers during the course of the week. They will also reimburse other city expenses.

This is wonderful for the individuals and businesses who will make money from the production. But it’s not so wonderful for the rest of us. The problem is the state will cut the movie a big check. Tax credits shave as much as 30 percent of of production costs. The Tax Foundation looked at these programs in other states and found taxpayers get back less than 30 cents for every tax dollar refunded to the film. What’s more, New York has never done its own study to see if there’s any economic benefit.

We will slog through a downtown police state over the next 10 days, so we can pay $10 to see Rochester’s name in very small type in the credits. Maybe we’ll get to see a storefront we recognize or an extra we sat next to in high school. After it’s all over, the state will hand over wads of cash to the rich movie producers. Will it have been worth it?

Links of the Day:

– Kodak is handing over its camera film business to U.K. retirees to settle debt.

Feeling ignored, the Utica Observer-Dispatch begs Cuomo to come visit and discuss jobs and the economy.

– This is why cities should be very wary of Cuomo’s advisory board to “help” them.

Cuomo will bow out if Clinton runs.

– West side Rochester bars top the list of places selling the most Quick Draw in Monroe County.

– There are two bidders left for Carestream Health. They are Bain Capital and THL.

Are Common Core standards in trouble?

14 Responses to Caught in Spider-Man’s Web

  1. We Rochesterites love to see a mention of our community in the big-league media or movies. You know that local TV especially loves the local angle. How many times have we seen them cut to a reporter to get the local angle. “Thanks, Bob. It’s been reported by reliable sources that Joe Smith, convicted mass murderer, drove by Rochester on the Thruway at least four times in the past year. While he did not stop in our city, he did purchase gasoline at the Victor rest stop in September of last year….”

  2. Rachel,

    Love your reporting. And you are correct.
    Maybe they will give “We The Taxpayers”
    free tickets 🙂


    BTY: Iberdrola forced the RG&E to sever all the cables in Russell Station so it could never Generate power again. I tried to get WHAM and the D and C to cover it (Steve Orr),
    but they both refused. I filed a complaint mwith the PSA, and Ann Dalton, from the PSC called me and basically told me to mind my own business. Destroying Russell is a crime and “We The Rate Payers” footed the bill!
    Much more here:
    If you want to tackel this one call me.

    Dave Kaspersin

  3. April 29, 2013 at 10:45 am Pat Mannix responds:

    Rachel, would you explain what kind of tax breaks these are. If these are out of town companies, what is their tax liability here or in the state? I’m not clear on this.

  4. Ok, so why dont we say no to them, they can go to Buffalo, or Syracuse; or out of state. Then the prodcution crew can give that city millions of dollars. Yes it’s bad that the tax break is so high but also what about the economic impact to our city. The busses are rerouted for a week, I think the RTS has done a great job figuring it all out (Just like NYC or any other large city does when they shoot a film) As an “imaging” center of the world shouldnt we be more open to new things

  5. Shooting the picture here represents a strong positive financial benefit to the community. The film company is getting tax rate reductions, not net cash flow to their company..that means they pay less in taxes which is still more that ZERO which is what they would pay if they did not come. There is a science for doing economic impact statements and I do that as part of my business. While I have not done the formal analysis for this enterprise in this specific case, I can tell you from having done similar studies we are getting a substantive benefit to our economy and if we pursued this type of this more aggressively, it would almost always be a high positive net value to the community economy. The science and econometric analysis make that clear and unambiguous.

  6. April 29, 2013 at 2:36 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    it is interesting a standard federal test for all students is a good idea. if it is used as a gauge but it seems if it being used as a cudgel, that will never work with the states.

  7. April 30, 2013 at 2:26 pm Barbara Warren responds:

    I think it’s great. So do all the other business owners who will profit from this.

  8. Andy’s advisory board is just more of the same hate on police and fire. These guys aren’t bankrupting our cities, Rochester is a prime example. We have a city that claims to be broke (while there are issues, the city inflates costs and undervalues revenue by factors that are beyond concervative) while pointing the finger at police and fire. Meanwhile we have bloated bureaucracy and unnecessary public works projects funneling money to campaign donors and connected individuals. City hall says police and fire makes up a large chunk of the budget like its a bad thing, it should that’s what local government is for. It’s not building marinas, operating bars, stadiums and all other sorts of luncacy. Plow my street, patrol my street, save me from fire, and pick up my garbage. If city hall would focus on that we’d be flush with money. No they waste it and cry broke, but I guess a patrol car or fire engine doesn’t get votes like a new flower garden or marina does

  9. May 1, 2013 at 6:53 am TechnologyProfessional responds:

    No, Rachel, Rick is right, you’re the one who’s “wrong” (your choice of pejorative term). Yes, the refund is a refund, rather than a rate reduction, but it is still a *re*fund, a return to the companies of a portion of what they shelled out, leaving much of what they shelled out still in our hands. We will still be more prosperous after this is all said and done than we would have been had it not happened at all. The only way to make it appear that we lose on the deal is to presume that the film would have been made in Rochester anyway, even without the refund, but that is highly unlikely. The film being made elsewhere, or not being made at all, is the baseline from which gains and losses must be computed.

    • May 1, 2013 at 8:05 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      The refund shaves 30 percent off production costs, meaning a movie that is not profitable can actually make money because of the refund. New York State set aside $420 million dollars to fund this program. Think about that, please, before saying this doesn’t cost us anything.

      Also, more than a few studies on these programs shows taxpayers only get back 30 cents on the dollar spent. So “we” don’t make out – at all.

  10. May 1, 2013 at 8:33 am sean responds:

    I don’t understand the “positive” economic impact either. Tying up main arteries for days, forcing businesses to close and people to reroute themselves to work. Spending money. On what? If they were staying at independent B&Bs and eating in local diners, I’d be happy to agree there’s a significant positive impact. But they probably aren’t. They’re staying at places like the Radisson and the Hyatt and eating at Applebee’s, or in other words national chains. That money doesn’t necessarily come here; it goes to Corporate. Give me a break. A tax break.

  11. Rachel:

    You get an “A” for courage, but an ‘incomplete’ on your homework for vision, and mining the ‘stars’ for future film work in Greater Rochester.

    As a feature film maker, I have shot (4) movies to date: Two in L.A., one in NYC, and one in South Africa. I am writing a screenplay to be shot in our fair city. Frankly, tax advantages notwithstanding, I’ll shoot here no matter what, because I believe I can raise the necessary funds, and because like you, I love my home town.

    But many film makers are not in my position. Let’s face it: If most movie makers are choosing between sunny, warm, and more interesting places like Los Angeles, Toronto, NYC, or nearly anywhere else, they’ll by-pass the Flower City. But the more we cater to out of town investment (in this case, big budget Hollywood studio money), the better chance we have of slowly but surely gaining a favorable reputation in the film industry. This won’t guarantee future shoots here, but it will go along way toward helping the cause.

    Is it a dollar-for-dollar equitable fair exhange between positve local economic impact, versus state tax-refunds to “rich” film makers? I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. First, most film makers aren’t “rich”, and secondly, the money is out there, and it’s time we Rochesterians started competing for some of it.

    Spiderman in Rochster? A win-win in my book!
    Thank you.

    Christopher J. Wilmot
    Pittsford, NY

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