When Disney decided to kick off its 25-city tour of “Newsies the Musical” last fall at Proctors, it made sure to arrive to Schenectady a month early to prep the show for the road.
It had to build sets, hang lights, fit costumes, choreograph performance cues and coordinate microphone frequencies for the entire 43-week-long tour across North America. This monthlong process is called teching and it created about 155 temporary jobs — many of them local — including cast, crew, musicians, administration and other personnel.
But it turns out the 25 percent tax credit that lured Disney to produce “Newsies” in Schenectady didn’t actually go into effect until Jan. 1, more than two months after they were done producing the show. So on Tuesday, the state awarded Disney a $1 million grant to make up most of the cost of losing out on the Upstate New York Musical and Theatrical Production Tax Credit.
“When the credit passed, we believed it was going to start with the state’s fiscal year in April,” said Proctors CEO Philip Morris.
“That’s what we told Disney and that’s why they came here.”
When Disney and Proctors learned that Newsies wouldn’t actually qualify for the credit, they worked with the governor’s office to look for alternative reimbursement, Morris said.
The $1 million grant awarded Tuesday is actually less than the 25 percent credit would have been on the $5.3 million show, he said.
The grant was part of nearly $17 million in funding announced Tuesday from Empire State Development. The funding will go to 22 projects across the state designed to create 1,293 jobs and retain 1,568 existing jobs. The “Newsies” funding was the only grant to support temporary jobs.
Disney is the only company that produced a show upstate that asked the state for an incentive to replace the tax credit, according to an ESD official.
“They had already planned their tour,” the official said. “You don’t want to see a $5 million production back out because they thought they would be eligible for a tax credit. This is a pretty big production to come upstate and with the tax credit being new you want to show the rest of the industry that they too should bring their productions upstate.”
Disney officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The new tax credit was designed to level the playing field with other states that offer such incentives, Morris said. “Newsies” was just the first of many productions that will likely start teching their shows at Proctors as a result, he said.
This fall, the 2014 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” will tech its show at Proctors, the first stop on a 44-week national tour.
“When we argued for this tax credit, the thing that was important to us was that the competition these other states created by offering these credits put us at a disadvantage in New York,” he said. “But now we have seamstresses and costume shops and set builders and dry cleaners who can compete for this business again.”