Michigan Avenue has been a battleground for several recent weekends as Transformers 3 filmed scenes. According to the Chicago Tribune, the producers were partly drawn by the financial incentives offered by the state of Illinois. Though the film will spend more than $20 million in six weeks in the local economy, the state will offer at least a $6 million tax credit.
Illinois is not the only state playing this game:
Illinois is among 45 jobs-hungry states tripping over each other to financially woo movies and television shows. About half, including Illinois, offer tax credits, which cut producers’ costs by tens of millions of dollars at the expense of state budgets.
The pool of rivals has doubled in the past four years, and the lures, for the most part, are getting fancier, with only a handful of states pulling back, either due to recessionary pressures or local scandals. A just-released study by the Milken Institute indicates that aggressive plays, by states as well as overseas locales, are cutting into California’s historical grip on the business.
The rest of the article contains arguments for and against such aggressive tax credits. Regardless, it seems that the tax credit game may become a race to the bottom where states eventually find there is little economic benefit to having filming in their backyard.
Even if the filming doesn’t bring in many jobs (as opposed to short-term work) or other lasting benefits, filming can certainly draw attention. The filming of Transformers 3 has attracted a lot of local media attention, perhaps raising the profile of Chicago and Michigan Avenue for viewers.