Apr 28, 2022 - News

Colorado looks to add $2 million in film incentives despite questions

Bravo "Top Chef" hosts Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi in Colorado in 2017. Photo: Paul Trantow/Bravo/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Bravo "Top Chef" hosts Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi in Colorado in 2017. Photo: Paul Trantow/Bravo/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Five years after a damning audit, questions remain about the effectiveness of the incentives that Colorado offers to TV and movie producers.

Driving the news: Colorado lawmakers are considering a measure Thursday to create a new task force that would study how to make the state's existing incentive program more effective.

  • State Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) tells Axios Denver that the goal is to modernize the program and figure out ways to better compete with other states that offer more lucrative deals.

Flashback: In 2017, a legislative audit found the state's Office of Film, Television and Media paid at least $129,000 in incentives to nine projects that didn't qualify and issued another $1.8 million without proper documentation.

  • The office defended its work, saying the incentives flowed mostly to rural communities.

Yes, but: The reevaluation of incentives is not limiting the money flowing to film incentives.

  • The new measure would set aside $2 million for incentives and allow the economic development office director to exceed the current incentive limit at his discretion.
  • In last year's budget, Colorado earmarked $6 million for performance-based filming incentives — an unprecedented amount — as part of its pandemic relief package after providing no money in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The big picture: The additional millions in funding drew more interest from production companies, but the state's incentives remain far less competitive than others, particularly in neighboring New Mexico.

  • The critics consider the escalating incentives across the country an arms race that subsidizes huge, profitable corporations, but the state's film office claims an average 35-to-1 return on investment.

How it works: Colorado allows companies that film in the state to receive up to a 20% tax rebate if they spend a certain amount on qualified expenses, such as wages and set construction.

  • By comparison, New Mexico offers tax rebates up to 35% on expenditures in the state.
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