Show Me the Taxpayers’ Money

Hollywood is seeking ever more generous giveaways from local governments—though some are having doubts.

In 2010, actor Ted Danson, filming The Big Miracle in Alaska, set off a local ruckus when he urged federal regulators to block oil drilling off the state’s shores. The source of the controversy wasn’t so much that a Hollywood star was pontificating about a public issue; it was that the picture was receiving nearly $10 million in state tax incentives—equal to one-third the cost of filming it—and many Alaskans found Danson’s ingratitude shocking. Soon after, Alaska lawmakers took a hard look at the state’s rich subsidies for film and TV productions. Legislators first narrowed the program, and then, in 2015, as evidence mounted that the incentives didn’t pay off economically, they killed it.
Alaska is hardly alone in getting mixed up in the TV and movie biz.