Live commercial theater from Broadway to Los Angeles is about to get a huge financial boost under a federal tax code change that’s been championed by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and such stars as Neil Patrick Harris and Bryan Cranston.
Under a new tax package, Broadway and live theater productions will be given the same benefits that have long been afforded to TV and film productions.
Now, like small and large screen projects, live theater and concert productions would get up to $15 million in tax credits if they spent at least 75 percent of their budgets in the U.S. The new rule would apply for productions starting after Dec. 31.
“This is the biggest shot in the arm that Broadway and live performance has had in a long time,” Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said by phone. “It’s a very fair rule. It says: ‘Treat live performance the same as you treat movies.’”
Broadway and off-Broadway producer Ken Davenport, who has urged the theatrical community to push for the measure, celebrated its imminent passage.
“Half the reason I’m happy is that it’s just another sign that people are paying more attention to Broadway as a significant part of the economic driver in this country,” said Davenport, who has helped produce such shows as Kinky Boots, Spring Awakening and Allegiance.
The change is part of the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015, a package of more than $600 billion in tax breaks for businesses, investors and families.
Schumer, who has been working on the tax break for four years, said the change would create “thousands and thousands” more jobs for actors and backstage workers, and produce more shows nationwide, helping hotel, restaurant and taxi industries. He noted that other countries also grant live theater similar breaks, especially in London, which has been luring away American productions.
Schumer said he expected the measure will help both Broadway producers —since they’ll be able to deduct their expenses up front — and investors, who won’t have to pay taxes on profits they haven’t made yet. The measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican of Missouri.
Last year, the New York senator was joined by Harris, Cranston, Tyne Daly and producer Harvey Weinstein, as well as cast members from The Phantom of the Opera, Newsies and Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. They all urged passage of the bill, saying it would enable theater producers to take more chances.
“It will help small theater production even more than large, but it will help both,” Schumer said. “I obviously care about Broadway — it’s a major New York industry — but it’s good for the whole country.”
The backers of the change pointed out that the benefits go far beyond New York, where Broadway box offices earned $1.36 billion last season. In the 2012–2013 theater season — the most recent year for which data is available — some 45 touring Broadway shows performed for more than 14 million theatergoers, contributing almost $3.2 billion to the U.S. economy.
“Broadway has a ripple effect through the rest of the country. If Broadway’s booming, then the touring houses are booming. It’s one of our greatest exports, in my opinion. And that business has been growing tremendously over the last 10, 20 years — U.S.-created Broadway entertainment going everywhere from South Korea to Australia. Russia, Sweden and all these countries,” said Davenport.
“It’s a huge business and I think they finally said, ‘Wow, this is significant and we need to treat them with respect and to make sure that people like me still do it.’ It gets harder and harder to produce on Broadway. Every year, it gets just a wee bit harder,” he added. “I’m glad people are starting to say, ‘We can’t lose this business.’”
No one can blame Gareth Edwards for admittedly feeling nervous when asked to helm a remake of the biggest monster movie of all time. Sure, the only other film he had directed happened to be 2010’s Monsters. But this time, it was Godzilla.
Well, the latest iteration of the 60-year-old franchise is in capable hands. Edwards’ Godzilla is a pleasingly paced 3-D spectacle that pays chilling homage to the artful legacy of the original 1954 film — Ishiro Honda’s Gojira — while emerging as its own prodigious monster movie.
Created as a symbol of the nuclear threat following America’s atomic attacks on Japan in World War II, Godzilla’s reappearance suggests the nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. in the Pacific after the war were really meant to hold the radioactive dinosaur back.
This story begins in Japan in 1999 as nuclear physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston, edgy in an unbearable wig) investigates questionable seismic activity at the Janjira nuclear power plant.
When a team at the plant, including his scientist wife, Sandra (an underused Juliette Binoche), dies in what everyone believes is a natural disaster, Joe dedicates his life to proving that what caused the devastation was anything but natural. His obsession creates a rift between himself and his son, Ford.
Fifteen years later, we catch up with Ford (played by a placid but sexy Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in San Francisco, where he lives with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and their son.
Serving in the U.S. Navy, Ford disarms bombs, a skill that later helps him save the planet from MUTOs — “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism” — that emerge from a long dormancy and begin traveling the globe, feeding on radiation.
Screenwriter Max Borenstein, working from a story by Dave Callaham, doesn’t bombard us with multiple narratives or a multitude of characters (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins play scientists, and David Strathairn plays an admiral).
Instead, the film focuses on Ford’s family story, which Borenstein takes his time developing. When we finally see Godzilla — just shy of an hour into the film — the anticipation has built to such a degree that we expect to be awe-struck. And we are.
The tallest of any Godzillas before him, this one stands 355 feet high — about 30 stories — with glistening, scaly skin and dorsal fin spikes down his back. His terrifying yet textured roar shakes the theater.
Aiming for a realistic take on how we might react to an invasion by giant creatures, Edwards makes sure our view of them rarely shifts from the human perspective.
Honoring the eerie music of the original, this film’s score by Alexandre Desplat (Argo) is equally menacing, rich with horns that complement the consistently serious tone of the movie.
In the original film, made using stop-motion photography, an actor stomped around a miniature Tokyo in a latex suit. But in the hands of visual effects guru Jim Rygiel (The Lord of the Rings franchise), the contemporary take looks incredibly fluid and Godzilla’s movements appear far more natural.
But we’re not bombarded with excessive CGI here. Godzilla isn’t oversold, although for some, his lack of screentime won’t be satisfying enough. However, the balance between the family-focused story line and intense action sequences is bound to please others.
A threat to the planet in the ’50s version, Godzilla isn’t out to take the world down this time. He’s here to be its hero and his massive showdown — fiery radioactive breath and all — against the MUTOs is the highlight. He’s more than a catastrophic beast and we’re on his side when he swims off into the sunset.
While the predictable sequel has not yet been confirmed, one thing is clear: Edwards’ version of Godzilla remains the ultimate monster movie. The legacy has been upheld.
Godzilla, a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence. Running time: 123 minutes. Three stars out of four.