“Green Book,” which won the Best Picture trophy at the Oscars on Sunday, is a feel-good movie about a white bodyguard taking a black musician around the Jim Crow South. Louisiana’s department of economic development is thrilled by the attention for a movie filmed in and around New Orleans, featuring some local talent, too.
But “Green Book” could cost Louisiana’s taxpayers just over $7 million, an estimate based on early certifications of state tax credits for which the movie is eligible.
Not feeling so good now?
The movie’s merits aside, it doesn’t merit a lavish dose of tax credits, even if locals can occasionally see some familiar locations like McAlister Auditorium.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The segregation-era road-trip drama "Green Book" was crowned best picture at the Academy Awards, handing Hollywood's top aw…
And it is not as if “Green Book” is an iconically Louisiana production that’s destined to boost tourism here. This is a film made in Louisiana, but it’s not uniquely about Louisiana.
The frequent argument for the state’s generous tax credits for movie productions is that the projects draw tourists as well as employ local actors, set designers and others. The direct impact by payroll is limited, and despite numerous studies questioning the economic benefits, two governors — Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards, a Republican and a Democrat — have been supporters of the losing proposition of movie tax credits.
Economic studies, commissioned by the state every two years, have estimated that the program generates 20 cents to 25 cents in state revenue for every $1 awarded in credits.
The Legislature has gone supinely along with the glamour, seemingly lacking the business sense to do the numbers.
We do not doubt that there are some benefits to being used as backdrop for movies, particularly in New Orleans with its historic architecture and French Quarter, or in those plantation scenes in vampire movies. These advantages obviously vanish if, as in Baton Rouge as a site for movies in the past, the movie’s fictional locale is New York.
These tax credits have often brought temporary benefits for the financiers behind the films, but the credits are expensive, the films that advance Louisiana as a brand are few and far between.
We want more international visitors, who are lucrative guests. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, the state’s top tourism official, says there are real benefits to pushing Louisiana visits based on all sorts of historical venues and movies about our state’s varied history. Such heroes — or villains — like Bonnie and Clyde in north Louisiana, or the vampire Lestat in plantation country, might be an asset.
But the film credits are a liability, and the payday to the producers, in addition to Oscar publicity, are not worth the amount that Louisiana taxpayers are shelling out.
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