ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
For years now, cities and states from Toronto to Florida have tried to lure the movie business away from Hollywood. In 2008, Michigan got into the game. Since then, it's seen a dramatic increase in Hollywood productions, including 40 films just last year. But now, looming budget deficits have leaders in Michigan and elsewhere wondering if a Hollywood blockbuster is worth the money.
NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.
SONARI GLINTON: The executive of Wayne County has become a big, big movie fan. Detroit is in Wayne County. The movie that ignited Robert Ficano's passion?
Mr. ROBERT FICANO (Executive, Wayne County): The one with Clint Eastwood,�"Gran Torino."
(Soundbite of film, "Gran Torino")
Mr. CLINT EASTWOOD (Actor): (As Walt Kowalski): Get off my lawn.
GLINTON: Well, it's certainly not "Dirty Harry." But it was one of the first films that took advantage of the tax credits the state of Michigan began offering moviemakers in 2008. There have been about 129 movies since then.
The film incentives have also brought TV. There's HBO's "Hung" and the critically acclaimed television cop series "Detroit 187." It stars Michael Imperioli of�"The Sopranos."
(Soundbite of TV show, "Detroit 187")
Mr. MICHAEL IMPERIOLI (Actor): (As Detective Louis Fitch) Got them all fooled, don't you? Rolling into your charity functions, dolled up in your tux like a dignitary, like a refined gentleman. But this is who you really are, Henry.
GLINTON: Wayne County's Robert Ficano says a show like "Detroit 187" probably wouldn't have come if it weren't for the state's film tax program. And Detroit needs every job it can get.
Mr. FICANO: But when the productions come in, there are a number of small businesses that really benefit. The caterers, like, engineers, props. It's probably thousands of jobs and it's grown every year.
GLINTON: Ficano says Michigan has given about $100 million in incentives to movie and TV companies. In exchange, they spent $648 million in the state. And then there are the fringe benefits.
Mr. FICANO: Not only has an economic impact, it also has an image impact.
Mr. MICHAEL LAFAIVE (Mackinac Center for Public Policy): How many people are going to visit Flint because Will Ferrell made his�"Semi-Pro"�there?
GLINTON: That's Michael LaFaive. He's with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Mr. LAFAIVE: What politicians and others are doing is buying good PR, but that's more symbolism than substance.
GLINTON: LaFaive has been an advocate of rolling back Michigan's tax incentives since they were put in place. He says the fact that the state needs to give tax credits to one industry means the overall system is unfair. LaFaive says business in general needs help in Michigan, not just the movie business.
Mr. LAFAIVE: We would argue that those other businesses would create just as many, if not more, jobs in the film industry if the state would also get out their way.
GLINTON: Last night, Michigan's new Republican governor, Rick Snyder, agreed. He proposed a new six percent flat corporate income tax.
Regardless of what happens, the world can look forward to the movie, "A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas" filmed in Detroit.
Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Multimillion-dollar tax credits have attracted more than 100 film and TV productions to Michigan. But, Gov. Rick Snyder's latest proposal to levy a flat business tax in the state may dissuade Hollywood's interest.
For two decades, states from North Carolina to New Mexico have introduced tax breaks to lure movie and TV shoots away from Hollywood.
In the last few years, Michigan has joined the effort. The movie that turned Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano into a movie buff is Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, whichwas shot in Detroit and other parts of Wayne County.
The movie was one of the first that took advantage of the nearly $100 million in tax credits the state of Michigan began offering moviemakers in 2008.
Since then there have been more than 100 more, plus TV shows like the critically acclaimed cop series Detroit 1-8-7, which stars Michael Imperioli of Sopranos fame.
"When the productions come in, there are a number of small businesses that really benefit," Ficano says. "There are caterers, engineers and props. It's probably thousands of jobs and it's grown every year."
He says the state has put together $100 million in tax incentive and rebates, which has yielded $648 million in production company spending in the state.
"It not only has an economic impact, it also has an image impact," Ficano says. He hopes people who see Detroit on screen get a new look at Wayne County and the rest of the state.
Others disagree about the benefits of helping Hollywood come to Michigan.
"How many people are going to visit Flint because Will Ferrell made Semi-Pro there?" asks Michael LaFaive of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He's an advocate for rolling back Michigan's incentives for production companies. "What politicians and others are doing is buying good PR, but that's more symbolism than substance."
LaFaive has found some support for his position from Michigan's new Republican governor, Rick Snyder. During Wednesday's state-of-the-state address Snyder proposed a flat state business tax for all businesses, not special help for film and TV production.
In this era of state budget shortfalls nationwide, Michigan is just one state where lawmakers are wondering if a Hollywood blockbuster is worth the money.
No matter what the tax incentives, keep an eye out for movies that have been filmed in Michigan and are coming to a theater near you, including A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, shot in Detroit.