NY budget includes tax credit for upstate theaters

ALBANY Touring theater productions will receive a tax incentive in this year's budget to launch productions at upstate theaters to promote the area and compete with other states.

The Upstate New York Musical and Theatrical Production Tax Credit, included in the 2014-15 state budget, will reimburse 25 percent of production costs for touring theatrical and musical productions that rehearse their shows or do technology work at the theaters. Show would be able to begin their shows with multi-week runs upstate at qualified theaters -- including those in Buffalo, Elmira, Binghamton and Rochester.

Supporters have said the tax credit benefits the upstate economy as touring shows use local hotels and restaurants and when shows are opened at a theater, local venders are often used to build the sets.

Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, Warren County, who chairs the Senate's tourism committee, pushed for the tax credit at a news conference in early March.

"I am delighted that we succeed in winning approval for our theater tax credit in this year's budget," Little said in a statement. "This modest tax credit will help keep shows in New York that otherwise go elsewhere. That means we keep revenue in New York State, benefitting upstate communities."

The theater tax credit mirrors a similar 30 percent tax credit for "post-production work" done in New York for films. The film-tax credit has received criticism from conservatives, who say the state spends too much on the program, but has been hailed by state leaders as leading to economic development.

The theater tax credit aims to make the state more competitive with states like Rhode Island, Illinois and Louisiana, who already offer similar tax credits, advocates said. Some New York productions will leave the state for more favorable tax incentives, they said.

The credit will be effective in January. It applies to theaters in upstate that bring in traveling Broadway shows, which are mainly north and west of Albany.

"This work, traditionally, has been leaving New York and as you know Broadway is unique to New York and we need to hang on to that as much a possible instead of it going to Illinois or Louisiana or Rhode Island," said John Parkhurst, chief operating officer of the Rochester Auditorium Theatre.

The Rochester Auditorium Theatre is one of the upstate venues for the Touring Broadway Theatre League, which tours about 25 to 30 shows from September to May each year. The Rochester Auditorium Theatre has a six-show season, equaling about nine or 10 weeks of traveling Broadway shows each year.

Parkhurst said because of the tax credit, the theater would be talking to producers to push more Broadway shows to "tech" in Rochester, which is when they set up and practice a show before it goes on tour.

"Traditionally, August and early September are our slow months for Broadway, so if we can get one or two of those shows in here to do tech work and rehearsal it would be a big economy boon for the area," he said.


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