Hollywood Lured to Puerto Rico by Major Tax Cuts

Writer/Director Ben Affleck

Writer/Director Ben Affleck  (2011 Getty Images)

Hollywood might just relocate to ‘La isla del encanto’ (the enchanted island) of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico's governor has signed another package of tax breaks aimed at luring more Hollywood film crews to the Caribbean island.

Gov. Luis Fortuño says the additional incentives will make the U.S. island territory among the most attractive locales for film production crews.

The incentives announced Monday will provide film studio tax credits for money spent on non-resident actors, writers, directors and other talent. Previous legislation already created tax credits for hiring Puerto Rican residents.

Many U.S. states have similar programs to entice film crews.

Fortuño says incentives in place since March 2011 have resulted in about 30 productions coming to the island, generating about $80 million in investment. Recent examples include television episodes for Showtime's "The Big C" and the movie "Runner, Runner" with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.

Puerto Rico’s newspaper El Nuevo Dia  and The Hollywood Reporter  reported that JT and Affleck will be starring in “Runner Runner,” a flick directed by “The Lincoln Lawyer” filmmaker Brad Furman.

The movie will be a thriller about the intricate world of online gambling. Production began in early June.

In recent years, Puerto Rico has provided dramatic land and seascapes for productions starring some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including George Clooney and Johnny Depp.

Television productions are also finding a temporary home in Puerto Rico. HBO’s dark comedy series “Eastbound & Down” and the Italian miniseries “Angels and Diamonds” recently filmed in the island. HBO’s crime drama “The Wire” shot a memorable sequence in the scenic seaside slum of La Perla.

“It’s just got a great flavor,” said Luis Guzmán, a New York-born actor of Puerto Rican heritage known for his work in “Boogie Nights” and “Traffic.”

“People who shoot for the first time on the island are pretty blown away by all the beauty.”

Sure, the Caribbean island has an array of beaches, rain forest, desert-like ranges, colonial streetscapes, flashy resorts and gritty ghettoes.

But Hollywood has been attracted, first and foremost, by tax incentives that are among the most generous offered by any U.S. jurisdiction.

Star-struck politicians in the U.S. territory have been eager to dangle big tax breaks and other incentives in a feverish bid to lure a film industry that’s being similarly courted all over the world and has grown accustomed to shopping around for the best deal.

“Tax-credit programs have become the determining factor in deciding where to shoot, and ours is very aggressive,” said Mariella Pérez Serrano, the island’s film commissioner.

“The more they spend in Puerto Rico, the more they get back.”

Even though tax credits have been offered to moviemakers since 1999, Puerto Rico has just started fully capitalizing on its proximity to the film industries in the U.S. mainland and Europe by aggressively marketing the credits.

With reporting from The Associated Press.

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