Preview of coming attractions

New England Studios, under construction in Devens, is already attracting Hollywood interest

MOVIE AND TELEVISION producers in Hollywood are already expressing interest in booking a film studio in Devens that is scheduled to open this coming summer, one of the studio’s executives says.

Chris Byers, director of operations and marketing for New England Studios, said three major Hollywood firms are interested in booking the facility if it opens on time in the July-August period next year. Byers said the bookings could fill the facility for a good part of its first year in operation.

“They are absolutely thrilled that this has finally come to fruition,” Byers said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles after a day of meeting with film executives.

Mike Myers, director of real estate development for New England Studios, said the walls of the $30 million studio complex, which will feature four 18,000-foot sound stages, are going up and construction is on schedule so far. The studio is being privately financed, but its business model is dependent on the state’s 25 percent film tax credit.

Lisa Strout, the director of the Massachusetts Film Office, said the new studio space would give television and movie producers the facilities they need to do a lot more projects in Massachusetts. Until now, producers have had to retrofit warehouse space for many interior shoots.

“It’s definitely the piece we’ve been missing,” Strout said. “We’ve definitely lost things because we don’t have studio space.”

The film tax credit offers producers of movies, TV shows, and commercials a credit equal to 25 percent of whatever they spend in the state. Massachusetts paid out $14.6 million in film tax credits in 2010, $83.3 million in 2009, $120.1 million in 2008, $39 million in 2007, and $19.1 million in 2006, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Such tax credits have been coming under fire, first in a recent three-part series in the New York Times and today in a report from the Pew Center on the States entitled “Avoiding Blank Checks.” The Pew report urges states to be cautious when approving and implementing tax credits such as the Massachusetts film tax credit that operate as entitlement programs open to anyone who meets the qualifications.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The report criticized Michigan for approving a 40 percent film tax credit in 2008 without having any idea how much it would cost the state. After the state issued $360 million in film tax credits, Gov. Rick Snyder moved to rein in the program. Michigan’s new approach authorizes $25 million in direct grants to filmmakers in fiscal 2012 and $50 million in 2013.

The Pew report praised a tax credit program run by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. The program is capped at $25 million a year and requires companies seeking credits to apply for them. Clawback provisions allow the state to recover a company’s tax credits if the firm’s job targets are not reached.