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Should Park City Film Studios Have Been Built in Moab?

Park City Film Studios has arisen from the ground like Godzilla from the sea.  Its shadow falls over not only Quinn’s Junction but all of Park City. The hope is that it brings a thriving movie production business to Park City, diversifies our community away from tourism, offer jobs, and becomes wildly successful.

Meanwhile in Detroit, Michigan Motion Picture Studio, a studio that seems to have many things in common with Park City Film Studios (PCFS), has finally started getting a couple major film projects.  Three years after Oz the Great and Powerful was being filmed, they are now working on special effects for Batman v. Superman.  Before that they worked on Into the Storm.

There are two common threads linking the two movies:

  1. They both were primarily filmed in downtown Detroit
  2. They both got big tax incentives from the state

What does that say for Park City’s chances of using it’s movie studio full-time, leading to lots of full-time jobs?  It’s likely not good. From speaking with a few people in the movie business, it seems that studios like PCFS are typically used when the majority of filming is done in close proximity to the studio.  In the case of the two Michigan films both were being filmed primarily in Detroit.  It makes sense that they would want to have special effects handled nearby.

Would it make sense for a large budget movie to be shot primarily in Park City? No, although parts of Dumb and Dumber were filmed here.  How about Salt Lake City?  There actually have been quite a few films that had some scenes filmed around Salt Lake, including Park Rag’s favorite SLC Punk!. However, many of those just use the Bonneville Salt Flats, with a majority of filming happening in Los Angeles, et al.

Yet films that are primarily shot in Utah are done for the scenery and that scenery is often in southern Utah around Moab.  Films like John Carter and Lone Ranger need something that can’t be found elsewhere.  If they are doing a majority of filming here, a production studio makes sense… in Moab… but not 5 hours away in Park City.

The other side of the equation that even makes a studio want to film in a certain location are incentives.  For instance, Michigan gave $12 million in incentives to Into the Storm and $25 million in incentives to Batman v Superman in order to entice them.  Utah provides up to a 25% tax incentive. Yet, other factors are in play:

The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.
The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.
The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.
The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.
The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.
The total allotted by the state is $6.8 million each year.

People with a vested interest have been saying for years that this limit on incentives, which is 1/2 of the money given in Michigan for a movie you’ll never see, must increase. It hasn’t.  So, not a lot of movies are going to be filmed in Utah.  If some are, not a major portion of the movie will be filmed in Utah. For those that are, the majority will be filmed in southern Utah.  And that’s a long way from Park City. That’s a lot of ifs, ands, and buts… and you know how that phrase is finished.

So, we rest our hopes on a TV show, maybe a spinoff of High School Musical 6 in Space that makes sense to film in Salt Lake, and requires some wicked special effects that can only be done at PCFS.  Otherwise, it turns into another Osmond Studios, and you REALLY don’t want to know what it’s currently being used for.

Building any sort of studio in Utah is at a best a crap shoot.  At least building a production studio in Moab or St George has some logic behind it.


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