- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2006

Maryland and Virginia reported record economic impact from films and television shows produced in the states last year.

The Maryland Film Office recorded $158 million in economic impact, more than double the $66 million it accrued in 2004, according to figures released last week. The previous record was $125 million in 2003.

Last year, the Maryland General Assembly enacted a rebate program giving commercial film groups a 50 percent rebate on the first $25,000 in wages paid per employee (except on Hollywood titans earning more than $1 million) during their stay in the state. The legislation was passed shortly after filmmakers of the Naval Academy drama “Annapolis” snubbed Maryland and shot in Philadelphia.

The legislation, which doled out $4 million in incentives last year, brings Maryland in line with other film-rich states such as Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York.

“When a production comes to town, it means more people are employed in good-paying jobs, thousands of hotel room nights get booked and production companies buy hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction materials and food,” said Dennis Castleman, assistant secretary for the division of tourism, film and the arts, part of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

In Virginia, the film industry brought in a record $221 million last year, a 14 percent increase over 2004.

“Our strength continues to be projects centered on historic themes, and Virginia’s ability to portray Washington, D.C.,” said Virginia Film Office director Rita McClenny. “Virginia remains competitive even though we do not offer the incentives that are available in 25 other states that compete with us for this film and video activity.”

Virginia provides filmmakers some sales tax breaks — for developing film or booking hotel or motel rooms for more than 90 days, for instance — but the breaks aren’t as extensive as they are in some other states.

“Mission Impossible III” was one of the films shot in the commonwealth last year. It filmed on the 14th Street Bridge connecting Arlington to the District, as well as at sites in Richmond and Hampton Roads.

Hollywood spent $61 million in the District last year, about a $10 million increase from 2004, said Crystal Palmer, director of the D.C. Office of Motion Picture and TV Development.

The office is considering a sales tax break to recommend to the mayor this fall to remain competitive, Ms. Palmer said. The District does not have a government-funded incentive program, but private companies take 10 percent off when production companies come to the city.

“As you can see, my competitors all around me are pretty entrenched in it, so it has an effect on us,” she said. “Incentives are now considered the norm than the exception.”

In other news …

Bottom Dollar, a discount grocery chain from Food Lion LLC, continued its push into the Washington area by opening three Virginia stores last week, bringing the chain’s total to 11 in the region. Two stores opened in former Food Lion stores in Woodbridge; the other one is in Dumfries.

• Retail & Hospitality appears on Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at [email protected] or 202/636-4836.

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