SALT LAKE CITY — Kevin Costner, the Academy Award-winning actor-director known for films such as “Dances With Wolves” and the current TV hit “Yellowstone,” is lobbying Utah lawmakers to offer more tax rebates to films that choose to shoot in rural parts of the state.
Costner told the Deseret News that he has several movies he would like to film in Utah, but doing so will depend on the outcome of Senate Bill 49, which is currently under consideration in the Utah Legislature.
“My biggest hope is that the state backs SB49 and that dream becomes a reality,” he said. “I don’t really want to go anywhere else with these five movies.”
Utah and other states have increasingly ratcheted up the size of incentives they offer to film and TV productions as part of efforts to compete for their business.
Utah currently offers up to $8.3 million in tax rebates annually to productions that chose to film in the state. Under the Utah Film Commission’s Motion Picture Incentive Program, productions can be refunded 20-25 percent of the taxes they pay on direct production expenditures, including goods, services, wages and income, up to the maximum allowed amount.
Senate Bill 49 would lift the $8.3 million cap for productions filmed in rural areas of the state. Republican State Sen. Ron Winterton, the proposal’s sponsor, argues that increasing the size of incentives will draw more films to areas of the state with small, often tourism-reliant economies.
Proponents argue that production spending and the publicity from films shot in the state justify pouring tax revenue into incentive programs, which draw from the state’s general fund.
Costner’s push comes years after ’Yellowstone” moved most of its production from Utah to Montana after lawmakers there increased the size of that state’s incentive program.
Costner’s attorney told The Deseret News that Costner would likely chose not to shoot films including his upcoming Western “Horizon” in Utah unless the state offered more incentives.