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Washington State May Shut Film Office

December 31, 2001|From Reuters

SEATTLE — Fewer misty vistas and cozy coffeehouse backdrops could grace Hollywood movies if Washington state shuts down the office that helps scout film locations as the governor considers a new round of budget cuts.

The Washington State Film Office is among about 30 state programs and agencies that Gov. Gary Locke has on the chopping block in his latest annual budget proposal.

Washington, its unemployment rate rising as major employer and airliner maker Boeing Co. sheds jobs, expects a budget shortfall of $1.2 billion, forcing Democrat Locke to tighten state spending.

But supporters of the Seattle-based three-person film office say it brings in much more than it spends.

The office has an annual budget of $375,000 and returns more than $100 for every dollar spent by the state, Washington's Office of Trade and Economic Development has calculated. Feature films including "Sleepless in Seattle," "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Disclosure" and the Sylvester Stallone remake of "Get Carter" have provided Washington with business from filming on location.

Competition among states and localities for Hollywood's business is fierce. There are about 200 film offices across the U.S. seeking to attract entertainment industry spending.

The Mississippi Film Office last year attracted the production of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" to the city of Canton. The office, which has a budget of $55,000, said the location filming generated $5 million for hotels, restaurants, rental car agencies and other local businesses.

Washington also faces competition from neighboring British Columbia. Canada offers Hollywood a cheap Canadian dollar, tax credits and lower production costs.

The British Columbia Film Commission saw revenues from film production last year rise to nearly triple those of 1995. Foreign films, mostly from the U.S., accounted for more than half the province's $767 million in total movie production, according to industry statistics.

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