There's a replica of a Ukrop's grocery store in Boston that, to the local film community, stands as a monument to lost opportunities. The set is for “The Box,” a major feature film due out later this year, and it was written, directed and produced by Richmond native Richard Kelly.
He set the story in his hometown, but because his home state of Virginia doesn't offer the same generous tax breaks and financial incentives that Massachusetts does, the bulk of the movie was shot there.
The Senate of Virginia approved a bill last week that gives local film buffs hope that more movies will be made here in the future.
The bill charges a 10 percent tax on any digital media purchased in a hotel room — movies, video games, pay-per-view shows. Half of the revenue goes the state's general fund. The rest would go to the Virginia Film Office, which doles out financial incentives to entice filmmakers to come here, rather than build a Ukrop's storefront in Boston.
A House of Delegates committee is considering an identical bill. The majority Democratic Senate may be enthusiastic, but the Republican-controlled House is practically allergic to new taxes and may find a Hollywood tax particularly distasteful.
Even so, Delegate Kirk Cox, R-Chesterfield, a budget negotiator and ranking member of the House leadership, says finding some money for the Virginia Film Office is a goal he can get behind, although he would prefer to move money around rather than levy a tax.
As an economic development investment, he says, giving filmmakers tax breaks offers higher returns than other industries. The cast and crew come to the state, rent the hotel rooms, buy the coffee — and then they leave. The state absorbs all their money without a reciprocal investment, such as building schools for their kids.
“That's fairly unique,” Cox says.