Movie buffs, unite.
City officials and movie industry advocates issued a call to arms for Tucsonans to ask their state legislators and the governor to pass the film incentive bill, which stalled in last year's session.
Speakers at the Wednesday news conference, including Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and City Councilman Steve Kozachik said the bill would provide a rebate of up to $60 million to attract filmmakers.
Backers said movies and television shows filmed here would raise the state's visibility thereby increasing both tourism and jobs - something we've very little of recently.
"Motion picture production creates jobs beyond cast and crew," Rothschild said. "Restaurants, hotels, equipment rental construction, transportation, insurance; it takes a lot of real world inputs to create the illusions you see on the screen. Just sit through the credits the next time you go to the movies. Everyone of those credits is jobs."
Kozachik said this isn't a handout to Hollywood, but a common sense approach to generating economic activity.
"They don't get a rebate until they've spent the cash," Kozachik said. "It is when you come into the state and when you start writing checks … that's when you start getting the rebates. … This has nothing but upside potential for the state of Arizona and hopefully for this region."
Kozachik blamed the bill's failure last year on the Legislature having already passed a tax incentive bill for the Intel Corp. in Chandler. He said evidently there was no political will to pass two in one year.
This year, there's no excuse for Gov. Jan Brewer or legislators to drag their feet on the issues, he said, further suggesting if it fails again, the movie industry could be forever doomed in Arizona.
For decades Tucson had a prominent position in television and film production. Shows such as "Gunsmoke" and dozens of Westerns, as well as movies such as "Oklahoma!" and "Tin Cup" were filmed in Southern Arizona.
But in the 1990s, the industry all but disappeared as production crews packed up and went to states that offered tax and other incentives.
That trend will continue if the Legislature doesn't act in next year's session, according to Tucson Film Office director Shelli Hall.
"Without a program, the rolling stock as they call it, the semi-trucks full of equipment and star wagons are just going to keep driving right through Arizona and into New Mexico and beyond to the 40 other states that do have tax incentive programs," Hall said.
Last year, Tucson earned $8.9 million from the film industry and Hall said that could grow exponentially if an incentive was in place.
Tucson Metro Chamber president and CEO Mike Varney said Arizona needs to have the tools available so it can compete with other states for movie production dollars.
"But the reality is that we can't win if we don't play," Varney said. "All around us, states and communities are finding a way to support the film industry. … So let's get caught up here. Let's get the film industry back in Arizona. Let's create the jobs that we need in our part of the state."
Contact Darren DeRonco at Ddaronco@azstarnet.com or 573-4243