The upstate tax credit Proctors CEO Philip Morris and other theater companies have been seeking for more than a year is on the verge of reality.
The Upstate New York Musical and Theatrical Production Tax Credit is part of the state budget; barring any late changes, the credit will take effect in January.
The bill provides for a 25 percent tax incentive to producers of major touring and theatrical productions who opt to launch such tours from a qualified theater in upstate New York. Along with Proctors in Schenectady, other theaters eligible to make use of the tax credit include the Stanley Center for the Arts in Utica, the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, the Auditorium Theatre in Rochester, Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo and Albany’s Palace Theatre.
“I wanted to develop a program that would allow upstate to compete with Rhode Island, Illinois and Louisiana, which are now launching the majority of Broadway tours thanks to those states’ tax incentives,” said Morris. “I am glad The Broadway League and other theaters around the state supported the concept.”
The tax credit is designed to bring major theater companies to upstate New York to launch a national tour after a successful Broadway run. The visit includes a “teching” process, usually around two or three weeks, where producers make sure of their ability to transform a Broadway show from its host venue in New York City into a traveling production at various destinations around the country. It’s what happened in September in Schenectady when Proctors hosted the national launch of the musical “Ghost.”
“That show was a great learning experience for my staff,” said Morris. “The company was in town for a long time, talking up the show, and it also helped me build relationships with these producers.”
Morris, who will be announcing Proctors’ 2014-15 season Thursday night, said he has no surprises to announce just yet relating to “teching” companies coming to Schenectady.
“I will start working soon on something for September and October of 2015,” he said. “But nope, nothing to say right now.”
Dave Buicko of the Galesi Group is hoping to lure a major film studio to the former Alco site in Schenectady, but conceded Monday’s announcement will probably have little effect on whether the motion picture industry comes to the area.
“As a board member at Proctors, I think it’s great news,” he said. “But the bill is more theater-driven, so it’s not a great help to us other than psychologically. It’s another arrow in the quiver of downtown, and anything that makes Schenectady more attractive to businesses and gets them downtown is important. It adds to the value of this community and that is very important to us.”
Morris began talking up the tax credit with some of his fellow theater managers as early as 13 months ago. That upstate group officially convened at Proctors in Schenectady on Aug. 28 to discuss efforts to promote the tax credit, then met again March 5 at the State Capitol in Albany to lobby legislators.
Morris thanked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his support of the bill and also singled out state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, chairwoman of the Senate Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee, and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, for their efforts in getting the tax credit included in the budget.
“I am delighted that we succeeded in winning approval for our theater tax credit in this year’s budget,” said Little. “This modest tax credit will help keep shows in New York that might otherwise go elsewhere. That means we keep the revenue in New York state, benefiting upstate communities. It’s good for the arts, enhances quality of life for residents and provides an economic boost.”
“I have seen firsthand, in Schenectady, the economic revival that can take place thanks to investment in the arts and live theater,” said Santabarbara. “This incentive will give us another tool to continue rebuilding downtowns throughout upstate New York.”