Film tax credits turn 'American Horror Story' into success story, L.A. mayor says

Inside a hotel lobby set from "American Horror Story," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti touted what he called an American success story: California's film and television tax credit program.

Garcetti used the the Art Deco set built for "American Horror Story" -- the FX television series that relocated from Louisiana -- to make the point that the state's expanded film tax incentives are working.

"The industry is coming back here where it was born," Garcetti told a crowd of state politicians and film industry executives who gathered on the Fox lot in Century City on Friday.

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"The unprecedented success of the newly expanded California film and television tax credit," Garcetti added, "has resulted in real, concrete economic benefits for all of us."

Garcetti noted that a crop of new dramas receiving state tax credits contributed to a surge in television production in the L.A. region in the third quarter, with a 24% increase in shoot days for TV dramas. 

A coalition of entertainment industry representatives led by the mayor successfully lobbied a skeptical California Gov. Jerry Brown last year to bolster the film tax credit. The goal was to enable California to better compete with New York, Louisiana, Georgia and other states and countries that have lured film crews away from Hollywood with tax breaks and rebates.

The new law tripled annual funding of the program to $330 million and allowed TV pilots and large-budget movies to qualify. Producers can offset as much as 25% of their costs on hiring crew members, building sets and other expenses.

Ryan Murphy's hit horror anthology series shot its first two seasons in L.A. but moved to Louisiana after it was unsuccessful in securing a film tax credit through California's former lottery system. (Under the new program, tax credits are awarded based on how many jobs each project creates, among other criteria).

Now in its fifth season, "American Horror Story" has been approved for an estimated $9-million tax credit, according to state records.

Jim Sharp, executive vice president of physical production for 20th Century Fox Television,  said the production will spend more than $55 million over a seven-month period and employ more than 200 crew members.

"Now, when we have a show to produce, California is actually included in the conversation where different shooting locations are discussed," said Sharp. "For many years, that simply was not the case."

"American Horror Story" is among four TV series that have relocated to California from other states, including "Veep," the HBO political comedy starring Julia Louise-Dreyfus that previously filmed in Maryland.

Also attending the Fox event were Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, and Senate leader Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), who was the lead negotiator on the film tax credit law.

De Leon thanked Murdoch for Fox's decision to move "American Horror Story" back to L.A. and stressed that the new tax breaks benefit middle-class families in Southern California.

"Is this for Tom Cruise?" De Leon asked. "Is this for Steven Spielberg? No, it's not. It's for working families. ... We said, 'We want our Californians to come back home.'"

Twitter: @rverrier

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