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Hawaiʻi’s film production industry is expected to expand, thanks to new educational programs and brand-new facilities at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu Academy for Creative Media (ACM), extending the state’s film tax credit and prospects for new studio construction by private investors. That’s according to a new University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) brief.

Contributing factors

UHERO said along with having a competitive film tax credit, “two other factors that attract film/TV productions to Hawaiʻi are availability of workers with skills valued by the industry and availability of state-of-the-art production studios.” Expanding undergraduate programs for film/TV/digital production at UH campuses and new state-of-the-art UH West Oʻahu ACM facilities fulfill both of these objectives.

“With roughly 250 undergraduate majors expected when the new UH West Oʻahu facilities open for in-person learning later this year, content production companies filming in Hawaiʻi will find it easier to staff jobs in their productions with local talent, while other UH program graduates will be encouraged to start their own companies,” according to the UHERO brief.

Film tax credit

Hawaiʻi’s film credit is a refundable tax credit that provides a subsidy equal to 20% of qualified production costs incurred on Oʻahu, and 25% in Maui, Hawaiʻi and Kauaʻi counties. There is an annual cap on credits for a particular production ($15 million) and an annual cap on aggregate credits dispersed to all productions ($50 million). Credits that exceed the cap can be rolled over to the following year.

Since the state began offering the film tax credit in 2006, UHERO reports spending on TV/film productions has sky-rocketed in Hawaiʻi, with inflation-adjusted spending increasing 116% from $164.5 million in 2007 to $355.6 million in 2019. Hawaiʻi is one of 32 states to offer a film tax credit, which expires on January 1, 2026.

Film credit policy recommendations

UHERO makes three recommendations for policy changes with respect to the film credit:

  • Extend the film credit to 2030.
  • Raise the aggregate cap on the film credit from $50 million to $75 million.
  • Limit rollovers of film credits for current projects to future years.

UHERO is housed in UH Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences.

Visit UHERO’s website to view the entire brief.

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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