ALBANY -- It wasn't a hard-knock life for the latest film version of Annie: New Yorkers chipped in $11.5 million in tax breaks for the movie to film here.

The 2014 remake of Annie was among six films and shows that received more than $10 million each from New York taxpayers earlier this year for shooting in the state.

In the second quarter of the year, $157 million went to productions that shot in the Empire State, records show.
New York offers the most generous film-tax breaks in the nation, budgeting $420 million a year for the program.

And the productions are cashing in.

The second season of Starz' Power, a crime drama set in New York City, raked in the most of all of the 50 productions that received tax breaks in the state between April and June, records released Friday by Empire State Development showed.

Starz got back $11.6 million after accruing $38.7 million in reimbursable costs and saying it spent $49 million in the state, hiring nearly 3,900 workers.

Columbia Pictures received $11.5 million in New York tax breaks for Annie. The 2015 Warner Bros. movie The Intern, starring Robert De Niro, brought in $11.4 million.

The studios and the state said the money is well spent, saying the breaks have lured more shows and films to New York.

“The production and post-production industries are booming like never before, generating thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity, and it simply would not be possible without the NYS Film Tax Credit program,"

Jason Conwall, spokesman for Empire State Development, which manages the program, said in a statement.

He said that in 2015, more than 200 projects were filmed in New York, creating $3 billion in new spending.

The program allows movies and shows to get reimbursed up to 30 percent of production costs; the money can't go to actors. To encourage filming upstate, another 10 percent reimbursement is available in most counties.

The 50 projects that received tax breaks in the second quarter reported spending $706 million in the state and hiring 63,367 workers. About $522 million was eligible for reimbursement.

Other shows that got big bucks included: $10.7 million for the WB's Leftovers; and $10 million for CBS' Unforgettable. Fox, meanwhile, received $10.9 million for season 3 of the FX show The Americans.

In a statement, Warner Bros. said: "Film and television productions are made in a very competitive global environment, so New York’s incentive positions the state as a great location for production."

Starz said Power is a hit that's filming season four and plans for a fifth season to be shot in the city. The series has hired nearly 5,300 people, saying the city “is the setting and part of the creative fabric" of the show-- which spent $49 million on production in New York.

"Tax credits from the state have helped make it economically viable for us to shoot a high-concept premium pay TV crime drama about New York City, in New York City and we are grateful for the assistance," Starz said in a statement.

Sony declined comment.

On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the new movie Ocean's 8 is filming in New York City.

Critics, though, have knocked the program for its largesse.

New York outpaces even California for spending on the program; California budgets about $300 million a year.
Also, some reports have questioned the economic benefits of the program, and some states have cut back on its film incentives.

In New York, despite efforts to drive films to the Hudson Valley and upstate, the majority are still made in the city, opponents have said.

Even Saturday Night Live -- which is billed as "Live from New York" -- regularly gets the tax breaks. In the second quarter, it got $1 million for its 40th anniversary show -- a prime-time special last year.

"Taxpayers would be surprised to know that the governor and state lawmakers give away $420 million each year to politically-wired film and television producers," said Ken Girardin, a policy analyst with the Empire Center for State Policy, a fiscally conservative Albany-based group.

"Elected officials enjoy rubbing elbows with celebrities, but the state's own data show that the credit doesn't generate enough economic activity to pay for itself."