Hollywood takes stronger hold in state

Years of building the foundation for filmmaking as an economic driver in New Mexico just paid off.

Earlier this week, we learned that Netflix is buying Albuquerque Studios with the intent of establishing a production hub. That’s a big win for Albuquerque, but one that will impact the rest of the sate, including Santa Fe. Over the next decade, some $1 billion in production spending is expected.

The purchase — the first of its kind for Netflix — is the result of negotiations by both Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico, proof again that Republicans and Democrats can cooperate for the greater good. The city offered $4.5 million and the state $10 million in Local Economic Development Act funding to seal the deal.


The decision to base production in Albuquerque validates years of work by film industry backers. There have been the sometimes controversial tax credits to draw film and television crews, but more than that, the state has invested in film education so that productions could find a ready labor pool easily at hand.

Towns and cities, including Santa Fe and Albuquerque, have set up offices to help productions do their work with a minimum of bother. Small businesses have grown up to serve the film crews — it’s not glamorous, but someone has to clean the portable toilets. The production of movies and television shows has become an industry, not an occasional event, in New Mexico.

Writing about the announcement, IndieWire.com said that, “Albuquerque is convenient. The airport is right outside a city that has remarkably little traffic, it’s a two hour flight to LAX, and there are lobbying efforts for a Burbank-to-ABQ direct flight in the works. The convenience of getting back-and-forth to Los Angeles can’t be underestimated, especially compared to its East Coast competition with its comparatively long flights and nightmare airports that are hard to reach.”

New Mexicans understand that making movies offers jobs for locals, tax dollars for governments and advertises our state’s scenic views. Even a skeptic like Gov. Susana Martinez, who once railed against tax credits for films, grew to understand that movies are good for New Mexico. She was at the side of Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller earlier this week to announce that Netflix would be moving in. Its permanent presence is a badge of approval that New Mexico has credibility as a place where movies and TV shows can be made.

With a studio in place, TV and movie workers in the state will have steady jobs. Other productions will jump on board, increasing the need for more studio capacity and additional workers. Series work is long-term employment, and that’s good for the entire film community. Santa Fe can expect to star in locations shots for the Netflix series — not all work on a show is done in the studio. Santa Fe movie workers likely will be hired to work on Netflix productions. Vendors and suppliers that work in the film industry will feel better about expansion. Expect additional productions in Santa Fe studios as the work spills over, and likely new investments for additional space. IndieWire.com, again: “In the long run, if demand continues the city has the space and structures to build new production facilities fairly quickly — including ABQ, which is surrounded by vacant land Netflix now owns. In the long run, production will likely expand in New Mexico; in the short term, Albuquerque is going to be a little squeezed.”


The new problem the state must grapple with — a job for the next Legislature — is how to manage the state’s cap on tax incentives. Right now, it’s set at $50 million a year in rebates the state pays back to qualifying film producers.

Netflix is promising to spend $100 million a year in production; the state pays at least 25 percent of production expenses through the rebates, meaning Netflix could take about half the maximum all by its lonesome. The expansion of film business in a year when cash is flowing could be the time to discuss lifting the cap.

For now, let’s celebrate the decision by Netflix to choose New Mexico. We have a film and television business that is growing, offering not just jobs but careers for New Mexicans in a clean industry. This week, Albuquerque scored a big win. So did New Mexico.


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