Your Film Tax Credit Dollars at Work–for Mark Wahlberg

It’s looking like the film tax credit is going to be with us for quite a while longer. Last year the Governor’s idea of scrapping it altogether in favor of a tax credit for working poor families met with very stiff resistance from film tax credit fans. This year his more modest plan to prune it back to its Romney-era size (in part by imposing a cap of $7 million per movie and by eliminating the option to sell the credit) hasn’t really been heard from since its January launch.

But if we can’t stop this perpetual train robbery, we can at least learn where the money is going (h/t to Jamie Eldridge and other members of the Senate who succeeded in getting us this window to peer into).  In 2014, the most recent year for which film tax credit information is available, one very big winner was Massachusetts native Mark Wahlberg, the star of Ted 2, which was filmed here that year. (If, like me, you haven’t caught Ted 2 or the original Ted yet, Wahlberg’s co-star is an animated bear and both stars’ vocabularies are largely scatological.)

We taxpayers ponied up $14 million toward Ted 2‘s production costs. For that money we could have paid for upgrades to 30 subway cars to extend their service for the better part of a decade or funded a year’s worth of rental vouchers for 2000 homeless families.  So far, Ted 2 has taken in over $240 million in box office and video sales, an amount that ought to reassure investors in Mark Wahlberg’s next Massachusetts venture that the film tax credit is not strictly necessary to its commercial success.

And as we were particularly reminded this past Monday, Mark Wahlberg’s next Massachusetts venture is already in production. Opinions vary on whether it’s too soon for a movie about the Marathon bombing and whether a Marathon bombing movie made by Mark Wahlberg will ever be appropriate, but come December, we’re going to have one called Patriots Day. Wahlberg and his production company at CBS have tiptoed around the movie’s possibly explotative nature and have offered a solemn but indefinite vow to “get it right.”

Apparently getting it right does not include respecting the wishes of any 2016 Marathon runners who don’t care to appear in the movie.


Here’s an idea.  If the Patriots Day folks are really interested in getting it right, they could announce that they’re making this movie on their own dime and won’t ask us taxpayers to chip in a quarter of the production costs via the film tax credit.

7 thoughts on “Your Film Tax Credit Dollars at Work–for Mark Wahlberg

  1. You are focusing on an industry that brings MILLIONS of dollars into the Comonwealth and provides thousands of jobs.

    Harvard and MIT, both in your district, have multi-billion dollar endowments, yet pay $0 in taxes.

    The biotech industry, firmly entrenched in your district, receive a plethora of tax incentives.

    Film production was a non-existent industry 7 years ago, yet short sighted politicians, like you, fail to embrace the positive impact this industry has on every single community in MA.

    • Dear C. Jennings,

      Thank you for writing. I don’t actually have a district — I’m not a legislator or politician, just a Massachusetts resident and taxpayer.

      You’re right that other industries in the state receive tax incentives, but no other tax incentive is nearly as generous as the one the film industry gets — 25 percent of production and payroll expenses (uncapped), a sales tax exemption, refundability and transferability of the credit, and no cap on the state’s annual obligation under the program. Massachusetts residents get a benefit from this credit only after Massachusetts taxpayers have paid far greater sums to studio executives who as a general rule don’t even live here. I think people like that movies are made In Massachusetts and understand that other states offer similar or even more generous credits, but some of us who don’t benefit from this credit very directly are still not sure that it’s a great use of taxpayer money.

  2. This weak attempt at an op-ed piece is typical of the misdirection used by anti-film folks. Instead of burrowing down to follow where the money really goes, she tries to fan the flames of anger with other issues – such as complaining it’s “too soon” to make a movie about the bombing. An emotionally=charged issue which has NOTHING to do with the tax credits.

    A more honest approach would include these exact dollar amounts:
    – How much money is spent at local grocery stores for each production.
    – How many millions of dollars are spent at local Home Depot and Lowes stores for set construction.
    – How many millions of dollars do Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, John Travolta, Sean Penn, Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin James, Steve Martin, Drew Barrymore, Mel Gibson, et. al. pay in Massachusets taxes each year out of their residuals?

    The anti-film folks never mention these items because they doesn’t fit the narrative they are trying to tell.

    Films bring tons of money not just as they are shot, but for many years after when these rich stars pay the Commonwealth taxes, every single year for the rest of their lives.

  3. Taxpayers didn’t pay a dime towards the production of Ted 2. In fact they collected $42 million in taxes if my math is correct. Possibly not but if there wasn’t a tax incentive this would have been filmed somewhere else and no tax money would have been earned for Massachusetts.
    This is a very negative piece and I find it misleading to say the least.

    • Some objections to my skepticism about the value of the film tax credit arrived yesterday, from SK (above) and Chris Ryan. Reasonable people can — and do — differ on this subject. But as to whether taxpayers paid a dime toward the production of Ted 2, you can look it up (at the link to the word “window” in the post). Ted 2 received $14,043,474.00 from us taxpayers.

      • Again, misleading. Your piece makes it seem as though Mass is putting up $14 million dollars out of its budget to get the film shot here. That is incorrect. The $14M is credited out of the total $56 million earned by the state for the entire production. I clicked “window” and it only sends me to the actual legislation page of how the money is broken down. I’m not seeing an actual dollar amount there.

      • Greetings again. The $14,043,474.00 amount that taxpayers paid for Ted 2 can be found at page 43 of the linked Department of Revenue document. I would be interested in seeing a cite for the “$56 million earned by the state” — I assume that is tax revenue collected by the state and not economic activity generated in the state.

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