On Location

'Transformers' spinoff 'Bumblebee' to receive $22-million tax credit, California's biggest so far

In a major boon to local production, “Bumblebee,” the spinoff movie from Paramount’s “Transformers” franchise, will shoot in California with the help of a $22-million tax credit.

It’s the largest tax break awarded to date under a state program aimed at curbing so-called runaway production.

The new movie will film entirely in California, according to a Paramount spokesman. Production is expected to take place in the Los Angeles area as well as in Northern California, according to two people familiar with the project who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

The production, described only in state records as the “Untitled Paramount Project,” has received preliminary approval to receive a state tax credit of $22 million, according to the California Film Commission.

The amount exceeds the roughly $18 million in credits approved in August 2016 for Walt Disney Studio’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” which also shot in California.

Filmmakers can recoup as much as 25% of their spending (up to the first $100 million) on crew salaries and other qualified costs, such as building sets. Studios can then use such credits to offset state tax liabilities they have in California.

“Bumblebee” is scheduled to begin shooting this summer in anticipation of a 2018 release. The movie, starring Hailee Steinfeld, will serve as a prequel to the popular “Transformers” movies and will explore the origins of the Bumblebee character on Earth. Travis Knight, who directed the Oscar-nominated animated movie “Kubo and the Two Strings,” is directing.

Previous installments in the “Transformers” cycle have filmed in the U.S. and around the world, including in China and Great Britain. The fifth and most recent release, “Transformers: The Last Knight,” opened in cinemas last month and has so far grossed $495 million worldwide.

California’s expanded tax incentives went into effect in 2015, with earmarked funds for feature film production. The expansion tripled annual funding available for movie and TV shoots and allowed large-budget features — those with budgets of $75 million or more — to qualify for credits.

Other recent movies to take advantage of the program include Disney’s “Magic Camp” and Warner Bros.’ “A Star is Born.”

The incentive program was designed to entice more major motion pictures to choose California and reverse the tide of runaway productions to states like Georgia and Louisiana, which both offer lucrative tax incentives.

California officials hope that more in-state film shoots will help spur local economies through spending and hiring.

david.ng@latimes.com

@DavidNgLAT

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