— Captain America (@CaptainAmerica) April 4, 2014
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which began storming U.S. movie theaters last night, filmed key scenes last May in Washington, D.C. But few movies or TV shows not starring a star-spangled superhero and a muscular budget can afford to film in D.C. proper, thanks to complicated regulations and high taxes.
The District offers few incentives for film crews to choose it as a shooting location. Many key monuments and memorials are off limits to film production crews because they are overseen by federal agencies. The bureaucratic hoops are many.
To limit costs, crews for films such as Marvel’s “Captain America” also limit the number of days they shoot in the District. “Cap” directors Joe and Anthony Russo told Politico this week that they cut their shooting schedule from 10 days to just three because of the lack of tax rebates.
“For movies of this scale, especially, that’s a critical factor in where you choose to spend your production days,” Anthony Russo explained.
Nearby Baltimore benefits from several shows that opted out of filming entirely in the District, even though they’re set there, including the Netflix series “House of Cards” and HBO’s “Veep.” Meanwhile, ABC’s D.C.-set “Scandal” shoots almost entirely in Los Angeles. That’s one reason some members of the D.C. Council have argued the District needs to increase production incentives.
Curtis Dubay, a research fellow at The Heritage Foundation who specializes in tax issues, says the practice isn’t as smart as it sounds. Dubay told The Foundry:
“Targeted tax incentives like these for movie and television productions are poor policy because they put politicians in the position of picking winners and loser. The economies of states and cities are better served by having better overall tax systems.”
Even so, most film productions choose locations for on-site shooting based on tax breaks. States such as North Carolina (“The Hunger Games”), Louisiana (“True Detective”), and Michigan (“Man of Steel 2”) recently boosted revenue by offering tax incentives to high-profile movies and TV shows. Other states have built successful ongoing tax credits for film productions.
For example, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” also shot for six weeks in Cleveland, spending $31 million over the course of production with 750 state-based vendors, according to the MPAA.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, doubled the state’s film tax credits in 2012 after touting the success of the program – and Ohio’s competition with Michigan for big film business – in his 2011 State of the State Address.
Kasich also has cautioned that the state will not be “held hostage” by big business seeking taxpayer money. According to the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, the goal is creating an industry in Ohio that will provide new jobs to Ohioans.
This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.