Push underway to bring more films to Arizona

PHOENIX - A big push is underway to boost the film industry in Arizona.

A rally was held at the state capitol building Thursday to draw attention to the industry that accounts for thousands of jobs and millions in wages each year in Arizona.

"It's a big business, it's huge business," said Randy Murray, a local film director who organized the rally. "It's great for the rural communities; it's great for the cities."

Various production companies and small business owners joined the rally to show support for a bill that would establish a State Film Commissioner and a State Film Office. The state's film office was closed in 2009 due to statewide budget cuts.

The Motion Picture Association of America estimates that the film industry accounts for more than 9,000 jobs annually in the state and turns more than $350 million in wages.

On average, Tucson and Phoenix facilitate about 100 projects per year.

Supporters of establishing the office say Arizona's film industry has significant other benefits as well including to tax revenues and tourism. But opponents believe the state shouldn't roll out the red carpet for the film industry in Arizona.

"The question really becomes, what kind of good economic tool can come out of just creating an office," said Stephen Slvinski, an economist with the Goldwater Institute. "So this could become a slippery slope where while they don't talk about tax credits now, they may talk about it in the future because now there's an entrenched incumbent in doing so."

The bill still needs to go to a committee before a vote is taken in the state legislature.

A few notable films that were shot in Arizona include: The Kingdom (2007), Star Trek First Contact (1996), The Hulk (2003), Planet of the Apes (2001), and Star Wars Return of the Jedi (1983).

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