Hollywood Alaska

The formerly "Everybody Loves Whales," - now called "Big Miracle," the first major, modern movie filmed entirely in Alaska is about to hit theaters. The tale of serial killer Robert Hansen, starring John Cusack and Nicolas Cage, filmed in Anchorage this fall. Other major-studio films are considering an Alaska shoot, even as an army of reality TV camera crews continues to prowl the state. Producers credit the state’s fledgling tax incentive program – one of the most generous such public subsidies in the country – with enticing movie-makers to the Last Frontier. How long will the gold rush last? Is the state getting a big enough return on its investment? Welcome to Hollywood, Alaska.

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Barrow-based 'On the Ice' hits iTunes - 5/14/2012 4:42 pm

‘Twilight: Eclipse’ director tapped for Alaska-based thriller - 5/14/2012 10:42 am

Alaska to pay $9.6 million of 'Big Miracle' costs

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

‘Big Miracle’ will cost the state of Alaska $9.6 million in government subsidies, according to paperwork filed with the Alaska Film Office.

The Universal Pictures film, starring Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski, opened today in theaters and was one of the first major films to take advantage of Alaska’s fledging film incentive program.

The subsidy allows movie producers to recoup about a third or more of their expenses, including movie star salaries, from the state. The makers of "Big Miracle" claimed $29.5 million in Alaska-based production expenses, according to a film incentive application filed with the state.

The state will cover the cost of about 33 cents of every dollar of that spending in the form of lost tax revenue.

That’s because, under the incentive program, the state is awarding a $9.6 million tax credit to the makers of “Big Miracle.” The filmmakers will in turn sell the credit to a company that has a corporate income tax liability in Alaska.

It’s a complicated process, but the end result is simple. In effect, the state will assume the costs of one-third of the whale-rescue movie in an effort to encourage movie-making and create film-industry jobs in Alaska.

The film office, which is part of the state Commerce Department, approved the subsidy Thursday.

While some legislators have questioned whether Alaska is getting its money's worth from the program, production services company president Robin Kornfield says such incentives are a smart investment. In a state with few industries, movies can be a renewable resource, she said.

“We have fishing. We have tourism. We have oil. We had timber. We need something new," said Kornfield, who heads Piksik, a company created by the NANA Regional Corp. "We’ve got to keep looking for something new because we can’t count on those industries being here for us forever.”

A 2010 report by the right-leaning Tax Foundation concluded that it's unlikely movie production incentives would generate longterm wealth for states.

The film office generally does not provide an itemized account of the spending claimed by Alaska movie productions, meaning it's unclear how much of the film's budget went to Alaska workers or vendors as opposed to workers who arrived from out of state.

The tax credit awarded to 'Big Miracle' is the largest single subsidy awarded under the film incentive program to date.

Read more about the Alaska film incentive here: 'Wooing Hollywood with Alaska money' (Nov. 28)

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