Disney's movie "Whale" and New Line Cinema's horror sequel to "The Conjuring" are among nearly a dozen films that have been selected to receive state film tax credits.
The California Film Commission said eight studio films and three independent projects were conditionally approved for tax credits totaling $55.2 million in the latest round of incentives.
Demand for the tax credits was high. The California Film Commission said last month it received 254 applications for the state's new movie film tax credits.
"I'm absolutely satisfied," said Amy Lemisch, executive director of the California Film Commission, which administers the program. "We got a large number of applications, and we're seeing the results."
For the first time, California was able to draw some large budget features that in the past have filmed elsewhere. To remedy the situation, the Legislature last year revamped and expanded the state's film incentives to better compete for large budget movies that have the greatest economic impact because of the large crews they employ.
The new law, which took effect this year, tripled annual funding to $330 million a year and for the first time allowed movies with budgets above $75 million to apply for the program, which allows companies to recoup as much as 25% of their production spending. The state also scrapped a lottery system that had been used to select applicants at random and now awards credits based on how many jobs they create, among other factors.
"The list includes at least two large-budget movies, Whale" and "Overnight" — both from Disney — budgeted at $86 million and $95 million, respectively, according to state records of planned California expenditures. Disney was approved for $6.8 million and $11.6 million in tax credits for the films.
Twentieth Century Fox received a $4.9 million tax credit for "Avon Man," budgeted at $65.9 million; and $5.4 million for "Why Him," which is budgeted at $52.2 million.
Warner Bros. received $10.7 million in tax credits for two midsize-budget films: Dax Shepard's untitled movie based on the "CHiPs" TV series and "The Conjuring 2." The latter is notable because the story is actually set in Britain, which in recent years has lured a number of major studio movies with its incentives.
Paramount Pictures also had projects with budgets of under $30 million approved for tax credits: "Action Park" and "The God Particle." The credits totaled about $8 million.
Notably, however, the list did not include any big-studio tent-pole movies such as the Marvel superhero films.
Although improved, California's film incentives still aren't as generous as other states, such as Georgia, that allow producers to get tax breaks on actors' salaries. Another limitation of California's program is that incentives apply only to the first $100 million in expenditures on movies.
Still, Lemisch said the selected projects show the program is working.
"It shows the new legislation is hitting the target of being able to retain some of these bigger-budget productions that otherwise would have left," Lemisch said.