CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Actor Jeremy Renner’s hopes of extending a measure for the movie industry to northern Nevada were effectively dashed Monday when the bill’s sponsor said it was too late to participate in the current legislative session.
A bill passing through the Nevada Legislature would provide $190 million a year in tax credits over at least 20 years aimed at bringing film productions to two locations in southern Nevada, including a $1 billion Sony expansion of dollars.
Renner, who played Hawkeye’s team of the Avengers in Marvel’s sprawling film and TV universe, lobbied lawmakers on Monday for a third location in northern Nevada that he says could compete. with film production studios in Atlanta and New Mexico where he shot Avengers and other films.
Democratic Senator Roberta Lange of Las Vegas, the bill’s sponsor, and Brandon Birtcher, a developer who led 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 examine the economic impacts an expansion of northern Nevada would cause.
“It took two years to bring this bill to where it is today. And so bringing in something else, a whole new idea at this point, it probably won’t work,” Lange said. “But I think we have to look into it.”
The bill is the latest attempt to diversify Southern Nevada’s economy, which relies heavily on gambling and tourism revenue but has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The proposed tax incentives are the largest in recent state history, even with deals that numbered in the hundreds of millions with Tesla and lithium battery recycler Redwood Materials.
But unlike those deals, which used direct tax breaks, private developers and studios must meet certain targets to qualify for significant tax credits. Two sites are proposed, one on the campus of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, and another in the Summerlin district of Las Vegas.
Developers are expected to spend $500 million and $400 million on sites by 2030, and studios are expected to wrap up film production before getting tax credits.
Neither the state Senate nor the Assembly voted on the bill, and Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo did not contribute.
The proposal stems from two years of negotiations, but was presented to the Legislative Assembly with three weeks to spare in the biennial session, unbeknownst to many, including Renner. He said he heard about it on a trip to Los Angeles and rushed to get a last-minute amendment to include the Nevada county where he lives and others in the area.
“I have a desire and I want to…speak on behalf of the people of Elko (county), the people 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 motivation for being here.”
Now, a study of the economic impact of a project in northern Nevada is more likely to be added to the bill, Lange said. The condensed timeline and additional tax breaks make funding for a third zone nearly impossible until the 2025 legislative session.
Renner, who moved to northern Nevada about 10 years ago, said he wanted to work on films closer to home and says the area’s landscape, including Reno, Lake Tahoe and expanses rural, would attract the interest of major studios around the world.
New Mexico already offers a reimbursement of between 25% and 35% of state expenditures for video production. Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation in April that also increases payments to productions based in rural areas of the state.
Renner said Nevada’s incentives could rival those of Georgia, which has emerged as the national leader in movie incentives. Films there receive a 30% discount on in-state costs that are not capped, as well as other local incentives.
Expanding the movie industry in northern Nevada would require more tax credits than are currently being proposed, Lange said. State analysts have predicted a peak cost of more than $3.5 billion over the next 20 years for Southern Nevada site tax credits, a small portion of which would fund training and education of the local workforce.
Opponents of the bill argue that massive tax credits would be better spent on schools, health care and mental health services.
If the bill is approved, construction at the two sites could begin as early as 2025, with studios using the space in 2027. Sony said it would invest $1 billion over the next decade at the Summerlin site , subject to government incentives.
Renner said he’s been talking with Disney and other media companies about bringing more movies to northern Nevada.
“I don’t know how to mount a bill or try to move the needle forward. And I’m not a politician,” 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 member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabester326.