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Portugal launches new film, TV rebates in bid to lure Hollywood

Portugal launches new film, TV rebates in bid to lure Hollywood
People walk past the 16th century Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. (Armando Franca / Associated Press)

With its grand castles and churches, picturesque cityscapes and long coastline, Portugal boasts the kind of scenery of that would make a Hollywood location scout salivate. But the country hasn’t historically drawn major productions the way France, Britain and even Hungary have.

The Portuguese government is trying to change that.

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The government is launching a new incentive program that is designed to lure more film, TV and streaming shoots from around the world. The new system, set to launch in March, offers a rebate of 25% to 30% of eligible expenditures, with a maximum rebate of 4 million euros ($4.9 million) per project.

The country’s program will have an annual total cap of 10 million euros for its first year, and then 12 million euros thereafter, though officials said they have the ability to expand funds based on demand.

Portugal’s incentive differs from other European programs in that it is a cash rebate, as opposed to a tax credit, and therefore would have a faster turnaround time. Although the system requires a minimum expenditure of 500,000 euros for a project (excluding documentaries), it doesn’t set a minimum number of shooting days.

“Portugal was not on the map of film production a few years ago. That’s what we’re trying to change,” said Ana Mendes Godinho, the country’s secretary of state for tourism.

Godinho visited Los Angeles recently with a cadre of film industry officials to promote the new program to major Hollywood studios.

Last year, Portugal launched a 25% tax credit for film and TV productions. But the country didn’t draw the volume of major shoots it was looking for. So film industry officials decided to make the incentive more attractive by changing it to a cash rebate and increasing the rebate maximum to 30%.

The new program comes at a time of increased competition among European countries for Hollywood production dollars. Last year, France lowered the minimum spending amount to 250,000 euros from 1 million euros for applicants to its foreign tax credit, in an effort to draw smaller productions as well as more post-production work.

Recent Hollywood movies that shot in Europe include the upcoming Jennifer Lawrence thriller “Red Sparrow,” which filmed in Hungary, and Clint Eastwood’s “The 15:17 to Paris,” which filmed in France and Italy. The upcoming “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” starring Tom Cruise, also filmed throughout Europe.

Portugal boasts a wide pool of technical talent thanks to the country’s art-film heritage that has nurtured such auteur directors as Pedro Costa, João Pedro Rodrigues and the late Manoel de Oliveira.

Recent foreign productions to shoot in Portugal include Terry Gilliam’s upcoming “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” starring Adam Driver, as well as last year’s “The Promise,” which starred Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac.

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