Sunday’s live broadcast of “The Passion” from New Orleans could cost Louisiana taxpayers between $2 million and $3 million.
The final costs — and the eventual amount the production will receive from the state in the form of tax credits — will take months to tally. But Louisiana Economic Development officials estimate that about $7.4 million spent on the show, narrated by Tyler Perry and broadcast live on Fox, will qualify for the state’s film tax credit program.
Exactly how much “The Passion” will receive in credits won’t be determined until late this year, after the company submits its receipts and a third-party audit has taken place.
Under the program, productions receive credits worth 30 percent of the amount they spend in Louisiana and 40 percent of the amount they spend on payroll, including what they spend on performers who are in the state only for filming. Companies can sell those credits or claim them at slightly reduced value from the Louisiana Department of Revenue if their tax liabilities are less than the amount of credits they receive.
In documents filed with the state’s economic development agency, Dick Clark Productions, the company behind “The Passion,” estimated it would spend about $11.2 million in Louisiana. But after reviewing the application, state officials estimated that only about $7.4 million of the project’s budget would be eligible for credits.
The religious nature of the program won’t pose any problems. As long as a film or show meets the production requirements of the tax program, Louisiana has essentially no restrictions on its content. The only exception is a rule aimed at preventing tax credits from financing pornography.
Chris Stelly, who heads Louisiana Economic Development’s entertainment division, said “The Passion” seemed particularly appropriate for the city 10 years after Hurricane Katrina.
“I think that it’s an immeasurable benefit when you have a former New Orleanian (like Perry) saying it makes sense to do an event like this in New Orleans,” Stelly said.
He also pointed out that much of the set work was done by the Solomon Group, a local firm.
New Orleans itself stands to gain a small amount directly from the production. Fees for permits, signage and the presence of off-duty police officers, emergency medical personnel and the New Orleans Fire Department added up to about $14,900 for the city. Those costs are expected to be included in the final accounting when the company submits its expenses for tax credits.
City spokesman Hayne Rainey said in an email that the city did not waive any fees for the production and the amount charged by the city should cover its costs.
That the New Orleans Police Department was portrayed in the less-than-flattering role of Roman troops searching for Jesus and his disciples didn’t seem to faze city officials, either.
“The live broadcast of ‘The Passion’ highlighted what makes New Orleans and its residents unique and why our city was the perfect location for this film production, which drew an audience of over 6.5 million viewers who connected with New Orleans in a way never before accomplished,” Rainey said.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.