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florida senator joe gruters
Credit: Tampa Bay Times/Disney/Canva Creation

New legislation would give Disney huge tax breaks if they’ll film movies and TV series in Florida

The State of Florida has done its homework and knows that streaming is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Now some members of the Florida legislature would like to make filming in Florida much more attractive to entertainment companies like Disney by offering them huge tax breaks.

Joe Gruters Florida GOP

Credit: Orlando Weekly

Republican State Senator and head of the Florida GOP Joe Gruters is pushing for a bill that would provide tax incentives to Disney or other entertainment giants that choose to produce film projects or television shows in the Sunshine State. The tax incentive program would be available to businesses whose entertainment ventures involve an investment of more than $500 million over three years, meaning it won’t apply to every entertainment company.

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Gruters has acknowledged that the bill–if passed–proposes a tax break that could be used by The Walt Disney Company. However, he pointed out that the incentive would be available to any company so long as they meet the requirements, which include having film projects that have a budget of at least $1.5 million or having television projects with a per-episode budget of at least $500,000.

Per The Orlando Sentinel, a Disney lobbyist is one of two signatures in support of the bill at this time according to records from the Florida State legislature.

“What we want is some of the big major producers of the content we see in film and television to move here to Florida,” explained Gruters.

disney+ brands included

Credit: Disney

Recently, The Walt Disney Company announced plans to up its streaming content budget, allowing for approximately $33 billion to be used for those projects. Per the company’s fourth quarter 2021 earnings call last week, Mickey’s streaming platforms, which include Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+, now boast more than 196 million subscribers around the globe.

Disney+ has 28.6 million paid subscribers, while ESPN+ is up to 7.6 million

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In contrast, the Peacock streaming service, which is owned by Comcast, Universal Studios Orlando’s parent company, spent $1.5 billion on its streaming content during 2021, meaning if Comcast continued that trend, that company could be eligible for the proposed tax incentive program as well.

Florida previously had a tax incentive for film producers who conducted their business in the state, but it ended in 2016. Since then, entertainment giants have looked to other places within the southeastern United States to do their filming–places that still offer an incentive.

“There has never been more content available to viewers,” said John Lux, director of Film Florida. “There is more money available to make that content than ever before. Unfortunately, Florida is not able to actively compete for that right now.”

Just north of Florida, the state of Georgia is one that offers those incentives, making it a hub for entertainment production. Disney has even filmed some of its blockbusters in Georgia, such as Black Panther and Avengers: End Game.

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In 2015, Florida’s incentive programs for filmmakers and producers returned 43 cents for every dollar that was spent on incentives, according to an analysis by Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

Regardless, Florida’s proposed tax incentive program has been opposed by some, including Americans for Prosperity, funded by billionaire Charles Koch. According to the group, legislators should be using their positions to lower regulatory burdens put on the film industry, rather than fostering “corporate welfare,” says Mr. Skylar Zander, Director of Americans for Prosperity for Florida.

“We don’t believe it is the core function of government to be giving incentives,” he said.

At this time, Gruters’ proposal is only a bill, but he and supporters of the bill hope to have it passed, bringing capital investment to the Sunshine State with the promise of tax breaks for those entertainment companies who invest in Florida.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!