Utah economy

Local senator hopes new bill will inspire movie industry to return to Summit County

Utah movie studios were buzzing last winter. But it was gun shots, not big screen shots, that brought people to the establishment.

Sen. Ron Winterton, a Roosevelt Republican and one of two senators who represent Summit County in the Statehouse, introduced a bill to try to attract more film productions to rural Utah, including the Summit County.

He said when filming for the TV drama “Yellowstone” moved its production base from movie studios in Utah to Montana, it hurt the local economy. Winterton said a local hotel that had a long-term contract with the production lost $300,000 in bookings.

“It’s generated a lot of business for Park City, whether it’s the restaurants, the bars, the motels, the transportation people, they’ve all thrived on that business. And now we don’t have it,” Winterton said. “I want this back.”

Utah currently encourages film production to the tune of $8.4 million per year. It was $6.8 million last year, but Winterton said he got the legislature to raise the limit. Incentives are paid to productions that meet the requirements in the form of tax credits or cash rebates, but once the cap is reached, that’s it for the year.

This year, Winterton introduced SB 49, which would remove the $8.4 million cap entirely if the majority of a film was produced in a rural Utah county.

Summit County Councilman Roger Armstrong is also a lawyer who works in the film industry. He said tax incentives are routinely factored into film budgets for productions worth $200 million or more.

“We regularly compete with New Mexico and Montana for these great western landscapes that filmmakers need, and that’s a critical part of funding,” Armstrong said earlier this year.

How Winterton’s program works is that the state would refund 20% of taxes levied on purchases made by an eligible production.

A tax memo attached to Winterton’s legislation said it could cost the state $12 million a year in lost revenue. But Winterton said movie productions wouldn’t come here in the first place without the incentive, so the state would always make more money than it otherwise would.

“0% of nothing is still nothing,” he said. “And 20% of 100% is still a really good deal for the state of Utah because we brought people and industry into the state that is now spending money in the state that, without it, they go to other states like Montana. , New Mexico, Georgia, there are a lot of states that have uncapped it. Some have $200 million and they see this industry exploding in their states.

The bill was introduced on the first day of the general session of the Legislative Assembly, but did not leave the committee. Winterton said it was an “uphill battle” to convince fellow lawmakers it wasn’t a blank check for major Hollywood studios.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion