Speaking of taxpayer subsidies …

Speaking of taxpayer subsidies …

The Pittsburgh Film Office will be sure to latch on to a Wall Street Journal story that notes how “in cities large and small, developers are building cavernous soundstages, rushing to fill a voracious demand for the space needed to make movies and TV shows.”

“A scramble by studios and tech giants for programming to keep their streaming platforms fresh has touched off a building bonanza unlike any seen since the early days of the entertainment industry. Even abandoned malls are being eyed for the job,” the story details.

You can expect, in short order, the Film Office’s Dawn Keezer to add this information into her never-ending spiel for ever higher tax incentives for the entertainment industry.

Never mind that taxpayers should not be underwriting such things. And never mind that film-production tax credits are no more than government yet again attempting to pick economic winners and losers. And never mind, too, that the “returns” on such “investments” are embarrassingly paltry with losses far outpacing any “gains.”

That said, The Journal also details what film tax credit backers most assuredly will conveniently ignore – the risks of the current movie production soundstage buildout:

“Despite the demand, such investments still carry significant risk. Investors say even Santa Clarita, usually a 45-minute drive without traffic from downtown Los Angeles, can be considered too far by some actors and crew to drive in the early hours each morning.”

Then there are “Cities like Spokane, Oklahoma City and Missoula—all places where new soundstages have either opened or are in development—have an even tougher sell because they have a shallower pool of entertainment workers to draw from when productions come to town,” The Journal reports.

“And since most of the out-of-California projects are backed by some kind of government tax subsidy, they run the risk of political favor falling and soundstage lots turning into ghost towns.”

Which, the story also notes, has “been the case in parts of New Orleans, where a graveyard of unused soundstages has often sat empty after state tax subsidies were canceled by lawmakers.”

Pittsburgh has a movie-production soundstage – 31st Street Studios in the Strip District, a facility that regularly shills for more taxpayer incentives – that has had ownership ups and downs.

One can only imagine now that with all this risky “competition” developing around the nation, it will be used as a rationale to pour even more tax dollars into film productions to “keep Pittsburgh’s competitive edge.”

But here’s the thing:

If there’s such the demand for new movie production soundstages around the country, there should be money – profits –to be made.

And without public subsidies.


Speaking of taxpayer subsidies, the Tribune-Review reports that the “developer proposing to build a large and controversial Amazon distribution center in Churchill has withdrawn its bid for $10 million in state aid.

“In a letter dated Friday, Hillwood Development withdrew its application for $10 million in state funds through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.”

Hold the phone!

Consider some financial results from Amazon for its 2021 first quarter ended March 31:

•Operating cash flow increased 69 percent to $67.2 billion for the prior 12 months, compared with $39.7 billion for 12 months ended March 31, 2020;

•Free cash flow increased to $26.4 billion;

•Net sales increased 44 percent to $108.5 billion in the first quarter, compared with $75.5 billion in first quarter 2020;

 •Operating income increased to $8.9 billion in the first quarter, compared with operating income of $4 billion in first quarter 2020;

•Net income increased to $8.1 billion in the first quarter.

And the developer hoping to lure Amazon to Churchill wanted to raid the taxpayer kitty for $10 million?

That’s obnoxious.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).