Goodnight to “Tonight” as California’s Star Shines Less Bright

Goodnight to “Tonight” as California’s Star Shines Less Bright

from: Joel Fox, Fox & Hounds Daily –

This evening, the legendary Tonight Show with Jay Leno will have its last hurrah in “Beautiful Downtown Burbank” before packing for New York. Another entertainment show that is leaving Southern California and taking with it about 160 jobs.

As Deadline.com reported, when Leno replacement Jimmy Fallon as a guest on the show recently “naively joked to the house band, “Hey, what are you guys up to in two weeks?” “Oh, they’ll be looking for work,” Leno assured Fallon, jumping on Fallon’s throw-away question/blunder. “They’re actually washing cars in my garage.”

It’s another chapter in the on-going tale of California’s marquee identity being tarnished. A report released last month by Film L.A. said filming in Los Angeles City and County fell 50-percent since 1996 and television production dropped 40-percent since 2008. Even when there is an uptick in production it often occurs in less costly venues such as TV reality shows.

Film incentive programs from other states and around the world are luring away productions and jobs.

The report will add fuel to the debate in the state capitol over whether to increase California’s tax credit program. There are plenty of instances of runaway production, but a glaring example was discussed in a Wall Street Journal article recently in which a studio executive commented that a California-centric movie be filmed in Vancouver “and roll in some palm trees to make it look like L.A.”

There is great motivation to save the California brand that is the movie industry. Assembly member Raul Bocanegra, chairman of the Revenue and Tax Committee, has made it a point to fight for an increased credit in an effort to save jobs.

However, the film tax credit increase has met opposition from those who say one industry should not be singled out for a break — especially an industry whose image is of wealth and glamour. The reality is, that image doesn’t hold for thousands of workers who labor in the industry in what is often referred to as “below the line” – the folks who make the movies and TV shows work but don’t have their names in lights.

Given the importance of the entertainment industry to California’s image and psyche, the reality of runaway production, and the state’s current budget situation, the chances of an increased tax credit being approved by the legislature is good.

However, if ease of regulation and tax credits work in convincing movie executives where to film, perhaps different incentives can help spur other businesses which will create jobs. Ideally, governments shouldn’t be in the business of picking which businesses flourish by offering breaks. Re-working the tax codes and streamlining regulations would advantage all businesses.

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