Newsom Asks Hollywood to Stop Filming in Conservative States
SACRAMENTO — Widening his attack on Republican states for their positions on guns, civil rights and abortion, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Wednesday called on Hollywood to “walk the walk” on liberal values by bringing back their film and television productions from states such as Georgia and Oklahoma.
Mr. Newsom issued the challenge through an ad in Variety that asked the state’s left-leaning creative community to “take stock of your values — and those of your employees — when doing business in those states.”
The Democratic governor on Wednesday simultaneously endorsed a legislative proposal that would provide a $1.65 billion, five-year extension of California’s film and television production tax credit program.
It marked the second time in recent weeks that Mr. Newsom has used California legislation as a cudgel to rip Republican leaders elsewhere. Last month, he signed a bill allowing residents to sue makers of illegal guns and took the opportunity to rebuke Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas for previously enabling its residents to sue abortion providers.
Mr. Newsom’s statements on Wednesday underscored the pressure that intensifying culture wars have placed on U.S. corporations, particularly in states where the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade has severely constrained reproductive rights for women.
Some of the country’s biggest businesses, including the Walt Disney Company, Netflix and Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, have announced programs to help employees who need abortion access but cannot obtain it in their home states. Hundreds of entertainment figures also have denounced policies in Republican-led states that have weakened safeguards for L.G.B.T.Q. people. Last week, some 400 television creators and showrunners publicly demanded that production companies protect pregnant employees in states where abortion is outlawed.
But entertainment companies have not yet announced major plans to cancel expansions or relocate offices. “Tulsa King,” Taylor Sheridan’s upcoming crime drama starring Sylvester Stallone, has been filming this summer for Paramount+ in Oklahoma.
In Georgia on Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that film and television productions generated $4.4 billion in the state this fiscal year, a new record. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was filmed in the state, the governor noted, as was the fourth season of “Stranger Things.”
“I was happy to name Gavin Newsom Oklahoma’s Economic Developer of the Year Award in 2021 and I’m glad to see he’s making a run for two years in a row,” Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma joked in a statement on Wednesday. Mr. Stitt took a similar jab at the California governor last year in reference to the state’s pandemic shutdowns, which Mr. Stitt said drove business to his state.
The Motion Picture Association, the trade group representing major film studios and Netflix, declined to comment on Wednesday.
Moving a production can be exceptionally costly and logistically complex, and some of the entertainment industry’s biggest companies are deeply invested in states with conservative leaders. Disney, for example, has maintained extensive operations in Florida despite a bitter and expensive standoff between its employees and the state.
After Disney — pressured by its employees — opposeda Florida ban on L.G.B.T.Q.-related instruction, state legislators and Gov. Ron DeSantis stripped the company of the special authority it had over the swaths of land where Disney World and other company properties are located. Disney, meanwhile, has delayed a planned relocation of some 2,000 high-profile jobs from California to Florida.
Mr. Newsom has been in the thick of that power struggle for months, trolling Mr. DeSantis on Twitter and inviting Disney to rethink its Florida investments. The Variety ad was the latest in a series of initiatives by Mr. Newsom to take his defense of “California values” onto a national stage.
A $105,000 spot that ran in Florida last month — attacking Mr. DeSantis and inviting Florida businesses to come to California — was the opening salvo in a national effort by Mr. Newsom that has included newspaper ads in Texas attacking Mr. Abbott on abortion restrictions and a highly publicized trip to Washington, D.C., to discuss, among other things, gun legislation.
In widening his attacks to include Oklahoma and Georgia, Mr. Newsom targeted not only two of California’s most aggressive rivals for film, television and other content production but two of the nation’s most conservative states on social issues.
Oklahoma, which aggressively ramped up film production incentives during the pandemic, has banned nearly all abortions since the Roe v. Wade reversal. And Georgia, which has one of the nation’s most generous packages of film production incentives, has granted fetuses full legal recognition. This week, a Georgia tax agency found that pregnant women could take a $3,000 personal tax exemption for any fetus with a detectable heartbeat.
Mr. Newsom noted that California’s abortion rights are among the most secure in the nation. The state has also enacted some of the nation’s toughest laws on gun safety and civil liberties for L.G.B.T.Q. people.
California’s film tax credit — which the state created in 2009 after productions began decamping for Canada — has been of debatable value, even with an expansion and overhaul in 2014. The incentive allows filmmakers to recoup as much as 25 percent of their spending — up to the first $100 million — on crew salaries and other costs, excluding star salaries. But other states, including Georgia, offer more significant rebates.
Critics complain that the tax credit encourages bidding wars and rarely keeps productions in the state over the long term. A 2019 analysis by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found that one-third of the projects that received the subsidies probably would have been made in California regardless.
“While the credit probably caused some film and television projects to be made here, many other similar projects also were made here without receiving any financial incentive,” the report said.
But Newsom on Wednesday touted another study, conducted this year for the Motion Picture Association by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., that concluded that California’s program had helped create more than 110,000 jobs and tens of billions of dollars in economic output. In recent years, the tax credit has also helped bring shows such as “American Horror Story,” “Veep” and “Lucifer” back from other states and countries to California.