Legislative incentives might not be imminent, but there are plans in development that could bring movies and TV back to the Sunshine State

It might surprise you to learn that in 2006, Florida was the number three film destination in the entire country. Only Southern California and New York drew more revenue from the film industry than Florida. And the region was becoming the go-to spot whenever a movie or television show required an exotic location. 

But those days are long gone, as Florida is no longer in the top 10 in film revenue generated. Louisiana and New Mexico, for example, have leap-frogged our state because of the incentives they offer, and production companies are finding it financially advantageous to create a faux Florida in a studio rather than use the real thing.

Georgia, Florida’s most significant competitor in attracting Hollywood dollars, has a film program in place that makes it a more attractive location to film. And business is booming there. The result is $1.3 billion that has left Florida for Georgia over the years. 

Florida Senator Joe Gruters recently attempted to revive the state’s struggling film industry and attract production companies—along with the revenue they bring to many sectors.

Here’s a look at the failed Senate Bill 704, what it might have meant for film, television, and digital media projects in the Sunshine State, and what we could see in the future.

What is Bill 704?

Senate Bill 704 aimed to implement a Film, Television, and Digital Media Targeted Rebate Program. The gist is that any film, television, or digital media production that spent at least 70% of its budget or production days in the state of Florida would have been eligible for a rebate. 

The rebate would have been for the lesser amount of 20% of the production costs or $2 million, as long as a show meets some minimum budget requirements and employs mostly Florida residents in the cast and crew. These projects could have also qualified for an additional 3% rebate if they film in underutilized communities. 

This bill was filed before the Senate in January 2021 but ultimately died in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development. But it’s worth noting that Gruters introduced a similar bill in 2020, so he may continue trying to get something passed because of the good it could do for the state’s economy.

How something like Bill 704 could impact Florida

Florida is currently the only state in the southeast that doesn’t offer incentives to the film industry. The result is other states capitalizing on the sector while Florida falls behind. And the impacts of film and television on state economies can be significant.

For starters, there are the jobs the industry brings, as these projects take months to complete and require many people working on set throughout that time. Out-of-state actors and crew members also influence local economies, as they stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, and pay sales tax on everything they purchase.

In addition, a 2013 Visit Florida survey found that about 23% of Florida’s visitors came to the state because of a setting they saw on TV or in a movie. So, there’s strong evidence supporting the program’s influence on tourism and, ultimately, business, population, and economic growth.

CRE and the film industry

The film industry could also affect Florida’s commercial real estate market. When movies are filmed here, there is increased demand for warehouses for storing sets and costumes, studio space, and often commercial-residential properties. The influx of visitors bolsters the demand for hotels, and there is a need for office space for production.

Many movies set in Florida now film in Georgia using fake palm trees and plywood skylines. Production companies would rather use the real thing, but the competition—largely driven by state incentive programs—is fierce. So, it may be up to Florida lawmakers to incentivize film and TV producers enough to return.

What the future may hold

While Bill 704 didn’t pass in 2021, the battle isn’t over yet. Again, Joe Gruters introduced a similar bill, Senate Bill 530, in 2019/2020, which died before the Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee. The 2021 bill moved further than the one in 2020, receiving solid support in the Commerce and Tourism Committee before dying in subcommittee. It seems likely Gruters will make another attempt. 

It’s also worth noting that there appears to be some level of bipartisan support for similar legislation. David Silvers, a House Democrat representing parts of Palm Beach County, has co-sponsored film-funding bills in three of his four years in office. 

Silvers also has plans to introduce a film-related bill in the House in 2022. He thought that 2021 would be a tough sell because of pandemic recovery efforts. But there could be a greater appetite for a measure next year as officials focus on expanding the economy again.

Morris SE keeps an eye on any trends that could shape Florida’s economy and influence the CRE market. Reach out to us at 954.474.1776 for information on our services, from property management to investment opportunities. You can also contact Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or kenmorris@morrissegroup.com