Georgia’s ready for its close-up after earning a No. 1 film ranking

Georgia has spent hundreds of millions of dollars rolling out its red carpet for movie-makers. And a new report says it’s paid off, with the state being named the No. 1 filming location worldwide.

More top 100 feature films released at the domestic box office in 2016 were made in Georgia than any other place, according to a new industry study by FilmL.A. – Los Angeles’ film office.

The state topped places like California, New York and the United Kingdom, the group said, giving rise to it becoming the industry’s leading film production center for movies such as Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War.”

“The rapid growth of the film and television industry in Georgia and the state’s steadfast commitment to its support is remarkable,” the group said in its report. “With 17 projects in 2016, the first-ranked Peach State hosted nearly three times as many feature films as fifth-place New York and Louisiana.”

The steadfast commitment came in large part to Georgia’s generous use of tax credits, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars as the state has tried to lure both movie and TV productions here.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who just helped host a “Georgia Night in L.A.” reception in Los Angeles, has been a consistent advocate of the approach while pushing executives and studios to put down roots that would keep them here. He also backed creation of ancillary efforts such as the Georgia Film Academy, which aims to provide training for Georgians to get industry-supported jobs.

Industry boosters here say the new ranking shows the state’s effort is working — although it’s also worth noting that while the report ranks Georgia as having the most films, filmmakers working in California are likely to spend a higher percentage of their overall budget there. Executives said that is likely due to factors related to post-production work.

“The difference in Georgia now is that we have serious large infrastructure,” said Kris Bagwell, executive vice president with EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Georgia.

“We’re not just a location anymore,” added Bagwell, chairman of the Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance. “There’ll be over 100 sound stages in Georgia this year, by my count. When we came here in 2010, we were the first rental stages to come here outside of some small ones.”

Deal earlier this year declared 2017 the “year of Georgia film” and he, too, celebrated the ranking as “a reflection of our diverse landscape and deep talent pool.”

“It is also a result of a stable and consistent production tax incentive structure that casts Georgia as a top-tier destination for feature film companies,” Deal said Thursday. “As companies continue to choose our world-class infrastructure for filming, local businesses and workers in Georgia reap significant benefits.”

Georgia awarded an average of more than $200 million a year in film tax credits in the three-year period from 2014 to 2016, according to Georgia Department of Revenue figures.

This year, the tax credit program will cost $376 million, according to estimates from a Georgia State University study.

In turn, according to the Georgia Film Office, the 245 feature film and television productions that shot in Georgia spent more than $2 billion during fiscal 2016.

“We set out with Gov. Deal to attract the best productions we could by writing a program that would attract them,” said Steve Weizenecker, an Atlanta entertainment attorney and tax credit expert with Barnes & Thornburg.

The bonus, Weizenecker said, was the effect on smaller Georgia businesses that have sprung up in support of the industry, such as caterers, costumers and accountants.

The Motion Picture Association of America has estimated that there are now more than 2,700 businesses in Georgia related to the industry.

“It’s helping big companies and small companies,” Weizenecker said.

Staff writer J. Scott Trubey contributed to this report.

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