The movie industry may be returning to Southern Arizona

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 10:15 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona State Sen. David Gowan is moving a piece of legislation through the state legislature that he hopes will bring back the moving industry to Arizona, and specifically southern Arizona.

The movie industry thrived here for decades due in large part because of the Old Tucson Studios which hosted dozens of movies, TV series and commercials beginning with the movie “Arizona” in 1939.

But that industry fell on hard times following a fire in 1994 which destroyed much of the original Old Tucson set and studio. Attempts to replicate it never fully achieved full throttle success.

But it wasn’t just the fire. The Arizona lawmakers ended the tax incentives which lured much of the industry here and so it flew over Arizona to New Mexico and other parts East where tax incentives were abundant.

Now, Gowan has introduced SB1708 which will give movie makers and studios up to $150 million annually to start up movie making in our state again.

The timing is good because the old western town and movie set Mescal is giving tours these days and hopes to lure some movie making.

Old Tucson Studios will get a new operator, which will be announced April 5, which has ties to the movie industry and says it will make movies there again.

“They belong here,” Gowan said of the movie industry. “We were their second site for many, many, many, many years and as such I know we can get them back here.”

His bill has cleared the Senate by a 20-10 margin and passed the House Appropriations Committee. It now awaits a vote in the full House and then on to the Governor’s desk if it passes the House. The support has been bipartisan.

“We’re talking to him about getting it signed,” Gowan said of Gov. Doug Ducey.

Under the bill, for movie makers to be eligible, there are some stipulations.

“You use the facilities here, you have the jobs here, and you finish the production here in the state,” Gowan said. “That’s when you qualify for the tax credits.”

There are also some qualifications for the industry to get the incentives.

“The mass bulk of the movie has to be done here,” Gowan said. “It’s not where you can do 50% somewhere else, 50%, no you have to do it here.”

But there is also some concern about a series of restrictions such as using a “qualified production facility.”

Those would have to be built along with sound stages.

Tucson City Council member State Kozachik, a major proponent of bringing the industry back to Southern Arizona has some concerns about the restrictions.

“That’s going to cause some of these shoots to continue to fly over Arizona and wind up in New Mexico where they don’t have these restrictions,” he said.

But overall, he believes the bill can be good for the southern Arizona economy.

“These are jobs bills and they’re jobs bills that span the entire spectrum of our local economy,” Kozachik said. “And they’re clean dollars, they’re dollars that stay here when the production leaves.”

If it passes and is signed by the Governor, it will bring back a bit of fantasy to southern Arizona once again.

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