Aug. 29--SCHENECTADY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year hailed New York's $420 million film tax credit program as a success, saying it has paid off by luring film and TV productions to the state.
Now a coalition of Broadway investors, companies that operate touring shows, and theaters such as Proctors Theatre are calling for the same -- albeit more modest -- tax boost for live theater.
"It's an incentive for (producers) to spend the money that they spend upstate," said Philip Morris, CEO of Proctors, as he joined a group of industry leaders and local officials Wednesday to promote a proposed theater credit program that would apply to companies that journey upstate to field-test tours of Broadway shows.
Republican state Sen. Betty Little has introduced a bill that would provide a 30 percent tax credit for theater companies that bring their technical rehearsals to upstate halls. "Teching" a show is a niche particular to theaters outside of New York City, and it's one that brings in a considerable amount of money.
Theater companies typically spend three weeks in a given city organizing and rehearsing the shows they are about to launch on tour, said Randall Buck, CEO of Troika Entertainment, a Maryland-based firm that produces touring shows nationwide, including in New York.
As well as full-scale rehearsals, theater companies need to make sure the logistics of setting up and breaking down a set run smoothly before they hit the road.
Troika is at Proctors teching "Ghost: The Musical," a musical adaptation of the 1990 Patrick Swayze-Demi Moore film. Troika will launch its tour in the Electric City in September.
Teching brings a welcome cash infusion to a community, with as many as 100 crew and cast members setting up shop for the duration. Buck said teching "Ghost" in Schenectady will generate about $200,000 in local payroll over three weeks. Carpenters, electricians, stagehands, laborers and others are needed to set up the six truckloads of gear brought in for special effects, as well as costumes, stage scenery and props. It includes some $120,000 worth of hotel rooms and $20,000 in rental cars.
Other states are already starting to offer teching tax credits, including Louisiana and Rhode Island, and a similar break would help keep the Empire State in the running for more teching visits.
Morris said a credit would fit with the governor's push to revitalize the upstate economy, as well as play on the idea that Broadway is synonymous with the Empire State, not just the heart of Manhattan.
"This is New York's brand," Morris said.
Teching has become more involved as theaters embrace increasingly sophisticated special effects. And there has been a robust market for regional theaters like Proctors to put on Broadway-style shows with epic themes and elaborate stage effects.
Theater people call it "the 'Phantom' effect," referring to the record-breaking success of the 1986 "The Phantom of the Opera," which reinvigorated the musical genre and sparked ongoing interest in regional theaters that can offer such extravaganzas.
Morris estimated there are some 90 theaters nationwide that, like Proctors, offer Broadway-style shows.
Morris and Buck said that with Providence just a few hours from the Capital Region, the Rhode Island credit could mean shows might conduct their technical rehearsals there before touring through upstate New York.
The proposal being offered would cap the credits at $60 million annually and would be limited to upstate locations.
But downstate officials would likely support the plan since investors in Broadway productions frequently invest in touring companies like Troika.
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