Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg took center stage in Nevada's legislative arena on Wednesday as he passionately lobbied state lawmakers to pass a bill aimed at propping up the film industry in Las Vegas.
Speaking to CNBC outside the Nevada Legislature, Wahlberg articulated his vision of creating a thriving film hub in Las Vegas.
"I would love," Wahlberg began, "to see us building studios, creating jobs, and just diversifying the economy. I've moved my last film here. I'm shooting another film here coming up in the summertime."
Wahlberg told Fox Business in March he wants "to create a lot of jobs and a lot of excitement. Hollywood 2.0."
The proposed legislation, if approved, would significantly increase tax credits for film production from $10 million to an impressive $190 million annually over the span of 20 years.
"I think there's so much more opportunity to be created here. There's so much growth and so much potential; it's a wonderful opportunity for everybody to prosper," Wahlberg added.
Advocates of the bill point to the undeniable success story of Georgia, where generous tax incentives have effectively doubled the number of jobs in the state's film industry since 2011.
"[The bill is] something that's sustainable, and it goes long term into the future. It provides sustainability for jobs," said state Sen. Roberta Lange, D-Las Vegas, who is sponsoring the bill. Primary stakeholders include Birtcher Development, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Howard Hughes Corp.
Already, leading corporations are throwing their weight behind the legislation. Sony Pictures Entertainment has pledged a $1 billion investment for film production in the "Silver State" over the next decade, but only on the condition that the tax bill known as the Nevada Film Studio Infrastructure Act passes.
Howard Hughes Corp, a major real estate development company, also voiced its support. CEO David O'Reilly appeared in person to address state legislators, promising a $700 million investment to construct a state-of-the-art movie studio campus in Summerlin, Nevada.
"Our employees and the future of Summerlin are inextricably linked with the Nevada economy," O'Reilly stated. "If we can strengthen, diversify, and grow by bringing the film industry here, that will benefit all of us."
The bill's passage would pave the way for the establishment of two movie studio sites. One would be developed by Howard Hughes in Summerlin, while the other, called the Las Vegas Media Campus, would be situated in the University of Nevada Las Vegas technology park. The latter location would also house educational facilities dedicated to training individuals for careers in the film industry.
Under the proposed legislation, production companies would be eligible to apply for tax credits covering 30% of their production and construction costs, a substantial increase from the current 15% level. Notably, these tax credits would be transferable, allowing companies to sell them to other entities.
Critics argue that the state's financial resources could be better spent on other priorities. Citing research conducted by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, they caution that film production tax credits have often been an economic burden in other states. However, supporters of the bill say the potential for job creation and economic benefits outweigh such concerns.
The bill's fate now lies in the hands of Nevada lawmakers.
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