CARSON CITY, Nev. – Actor Jeremy Renner's hopes to expand a measure for the film industry to northern Nevada were effectively dashed Monday when the bill's sponsor said it's too late to entertain in the current legislative session.
A bill moving through the Nevada Legislature would provide $190 million annually in tax credits over at least 20 years aimed at bringing film productions to two sites in southern Nevada, including a $1 billion Sony expansion.
Renner, who played the sharp-shooting Hawkeye of the Avengers squad in Marvel’s sprawling movie and television universe, lobbied lawmakers Monday for a third site in northern Nevada that he said could rival film production studios in Atlanta and New Mexico where he shot Avengers and other films.
Democratic Sen. Roberta Lange of Las Vegas, the bill sponsor, and Brandon Birtcher, a developer who spearheaded the project said it was too late in the project to add another site. But Lange said a potential amendment could potentially provide for a study to look at what economic impacts a northern Nevada expansion would bring.
“It took two years to get that bill to where it is today. And so to bring in something else, a whole new idea at this point, it’s probably not going to work,” said Lange. “But I think we need to look at it.”
The bill is the latest attempt at diversifying southern Nevada's economy that relies largely on revenue from gambling and tourism but that was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The proposed tax incentives are the largest in recent state history, even with the deals that numbered in the hundreds of millions with Tesla and lithium battery recycling company Redwood Materials.
But unlike those deals, which used direct tax abatements, private developers and studios must hit certain goals to receive expansive tax credits. Two sites are proposed, one on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and another in the Summerlin area of Las Vegas.
Developers would have to spend $500 million and $400 million on the sites by 2030, and studios would have to wrap up film production before getting tax credits.
Neither the state Senate nor the Assembly has voted on the bill, and Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo hasn't chimed in on it.
The proposal stems from two years of negotiations but was introduced in the Legislature with three weeks to spare in the biennial session, unbeknownst to many, including Renner. He said he heard about it during a trip to Los Angeles and scrambled to try to get a last-minute amendment to include the Nevada county where he lives and others in the region.
“I have a desire and want to...speak up for people in Elko (County), people up here in Washoe (County), that we also deserve the opportunity to reap the benefits of building studios, jobs, infrastructure for the film industry," Renner told The Associated Press. "And that’s my main impetus to to be here.”
Now, a study to look at the economic impact of a northern Nevada project is more likely to be added to the bill, Lange said. The condensed timeline and added tax breaks make funding a third zone nearly impossible until the 2025 Legislative session.
Renner, who moved to northern Nevada about 10 years ago, said he wants to work on films closer to home and argues that the area's landscape including Reno, Lake Tahoe, and rural swaths of land would draw interest from major studios worldwide.
New Mexico already offers a rebate of between 25% and 35% of in-state spending for video production. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation in April that also increases payouts to productions based in rural areas of the state.
Renner said the Nevada incentives could rival Georgia's, which has become the nationwide leader in film incentives. Films there receive a 30% break on in-state costs that are not capped, along with other local incentives.
Expanding the film industry to northern Nevada would take more tax credits than currently proposed, Lange said. State analysts predicted a maximum cost of over $3.5 billion over the next 20 years for the tax credits for the southern Nevada sites, a small part of which would fund local workforce training and education.
Opponents of the bill argue massive tax credits would better be spent on schools, health care and mental health services.
If the bill is approved, construction on the two sites could start as soon as 2025, with studios using the space in 2027. Sony has said it would invest $1 billion in the next decade at the Summerlin site, contingent upon incentives from the state.
Renner said he's talked with Disney and other media companies about bringing more films to northern Nevada.
“I don’t know how to put a bill together or try to move the needle forward. And I’m not a policy guy," Renner said. "So I was really excited about (the bill). And then I was frustrated that it wasn’t very inclusive.”
Associated Press writer Morgan Lee contributed reporting from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326.