Movie Making In Virginia May Not Be A Great Investment

Nov 23, 2017

A clap board is readied during the filming of an American Heroes Channel three-part series about the Revolutionary War in Powhatan County, Va., in 2014.
Credit (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Virginia taxpayers have spent almost $50 million luring film producers to the state. Movie crews get tax breaks and grants, but new data is casting doubt on whether the investment is worth it.

According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, or JLARC, Virginia’s movie production tax credit has a low return on investment. For every dollar spent, the state's watchdog agency found Virginia taxpayers get just 20 cents back.

Despite the big push to attract film crews, the industry in Virginia has grown slower than it has nationally. In a presentation to lawmakers, JLARC’s Ellen Miller says it might be time to rethink the program. “Based on these findings we suggest that the General Assembly consider two options," Miller told legislators. "One is to eliminate both the film tax credit and the grant and the other is to maintain a film incentive program but make substantive changes to to improve its effectiveness and its economic benefit.”

That could mean fewer cameo appearances by Virginia landmarks in upcoming films. 

Click here to read the full JLARC report.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.