USC Takes on Tinseltown’s Subsidies

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Here’s something you won’t be hearing from the New Mexico Film Office: Research has, once again, confirmed that giveaways to Hollywood are a sucker’s bet for taxpayers.

Michael Thom, an assistant professor at USC, has published new findings on the “incentives” that states provide to film and television productions. He “looked at job growth, wage growth, states’ share of the motion picture industry and the industry’s output in each state,” and found that on average, “the only benefits were short-term wage gains, mostly to people who already work in the industry. Job growth was almost nonexistent. Market share and industry output didn’t budge.”

Thom’s first study, published in the American Review of Public Administration, concluded that between “1999 to 2013, the average annual percentage change in film production employment remained at or slightly above zero — even in California and New York, the headquarters of the entertainment industry.”

The professor’s second analysis, published in the journal American Politics Research, looked at “why states kept or terminated their incentives.” Dead-enders, he found, refuse to acknowledge reality: “After a state has invested tens of millions of dollars, no politician wants to acknowledge that the program is a waste of taxpayer money.”

Amazingly, despite its small size, New Mexico was one of the biggest-spending subsidizers of Hollywood. At $490.3 million, the Land of Enchantment bestowed more largesse on the industry than Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois!

Thom’s research is a welcome addition to the mountain of evidence demonstrating the failure of taxpayer “incentivizing” of the entertainment business. Let’s hope it gets some serious attention — from elected officials from both parties — in Santa Fe.