ALBANY – New York taxpayers are pumping more than $400 million a year into tax breaks for the film and television industries in a program that largely benefits productions in New York City.
Now, upstate theaters want a cut.
A group of theaters from around the state is pressing for a $5 million tax-credit program in the upcoming state budget that would be used by theatrical productions in their technical, pre-opening work for plays that begin in one city before touring.
“We lose the revenue and the economic impact of not having the show in Buffalo before it opens,” said Anthony Conte, president of Shea’s Performing Arts, one of the theater executives and play producers pushing lawmakers in Albany to give their industry a tax-credit program.
The tax break would cover 25 percent of the “technical” expenses associated with a theatrical enterprise. The theory is that a play destined for a nationwide tour would use Shea’s or some other upstate theater for a month-long process to build sets and other work.
The technical work could employ up to 100 people. In most cases, the productions are part of touring companies of plays that have already been on Broadway, though some theaters envision hosting pre-Broadway plays with the tax credit program.
“Patrons are going to get to see the show first that’s then going out on tour. Certainly for the theater and our employees it’s additional revenues, so it’s going to help support theaters and make sure we’re using them when the theaters are normally dark,” Conte added.
In the case of Shea’s, officials say a production company could come in during August when the theater is generally not in use to build a set and do other pre-production work, which would then be eligible for a 25 percent tax credit.
The program would not be available to Broadway theaters or other New York City facilities, and there would be a $5 million annual cap on the credits statewide.
Theaters from Buffalo, Utica, Albany, Schenectady made the lobbying push at the Capitol Wednesday, along with executives from theater companies.
Legislation is pending in the Assembly and State Senate to permit the theatrical tax credit program.