Tax Credit Extension Aims to Cement Film Industry’s Local Foothold

Chicago might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of the movie and TV industries. But in recent years, the city has become a major player in attracting productions of all shapes and sizes.

Now, an extension of the state’s film tax credit by Gov. J.B. Pritzker aims to cement the industry’s local foothold by continuing to provide incentives for film companies who shoot locally.

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“By extending this tax credit through at least 2026, we’re guaranteeing that these jobs aren’t going away anytime soon,” Pritzker said last week.

The incentives were set to expire in 2021. They give companies 30% tax credits on production costs and on salaries up to $100,000, the Associated Press reports.

“I firmly believe without this tax credit, we would have very, very few of these national productions that come to the state of Illinois,” said Peter Hawley, director of the Illinois Film Office, which administers the credit. “That 30% is critical to getting these productions to the state of Illinois.”

Those productions include several run by Dick Wolf, who produces three television shows in Chicago, including “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.” Wolf had previously threatened to move them out of state if the credit was not extended.

Film and media projects in Chicago brought in an estimated $474 million of economic spending last year, according to the State of Illinois.

Hawley says he wants to grow that number by bringing a production hub to Chicago, which he hopes will attract big names in online streaming.   

“I want Netflix to come here, I want Disney to come here, I want Amazon to come here, as they have gone to New York and New Mexico, and build a studio facility here, in an economic opportunity zone, where they will guarantee us a certain amount of work over the years,” he said.

Kwame Amoaku is the director of the Chicago Film Office, which oversees permitting and logistical support for productions in the city.

He says the benefits of TV shows, movies, and commercials shooting in Chicago aren’t just economic.

“The more ways we can show the city in a new light, and tell stories here, the better the image of the city looks overall,” he said. “A lot of these  productions are an almost love letter to the city, and it’s good to get that out there so people can start seeing the city in a different light.” 

The state’s tax credit extension comes days after John Coli, an ex-Teamsters Union boss, pled guilty to extorting money from Cinespace Chicago Film Studios on the city’s Southwest Side.

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