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Fantastic Four bolts, reigniting film subsidy debate in B.C.

The next group of actors to portray the Fantastic Four won’t be shooting the rebooted film franchise in Vancouver, but in Louisiana.

Diyah Pera

A well-known group of superheroes is leaving British Columbia and taking as much as $100-million in movie revenue with them.

Peter Leitch, the president of North Shore Studios, said Thursday the reboot of the action-movie franchise the Fantastic Four has moved production to Louisiana because of the lucrative tax incentives offered in that state.

Leitch said the producers decided to move after lawmakers in the state rejected a bill that would have reduced subsidies to the industry.

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The cost savings for the producers could be 10 to 20 per cent, quite a savings on a movie that could have a budget of up to $100-million, Leitch said.

"The numbers are getting so big, and the risk is getting so great with these features that costs become more and more of an important issue."

The Fantastic Four is a fictional superhero team based on comic books published by Marvel Comics.

The loss prompted New Democrat MLA George Heyman to accuse the B.C. government of being the bad guy during Question Period in the legislature.

"This government has succeeded in doing what no other super villain has, and that's to scare away the Fantastic Four," Heyman said.

"Will the government's message continue to be 'It's clobbering time for the B.C. film industry?' " Heyman said, referring to a slogan often used by the movie character, the Thing.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong's reply was just as comedic.

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"Holy corporate subsidy Batman," he said as other members laughed.

But de Jong added that the B.C. government expects to pay out $380-million this year in subsidies for film and TV labour.

"We think it's a sound investment and it is an investment that has grown dramatically year over year, signalling, madam speaker, continued growth in that sector," he told the legislature.

"But it is not a limitless subsidy that British Columbia taxpayers can afford, and we will continue to ensure that an appropriate balance is achieved."

B.C. offers a 33 per cent subsidy on labour and other incentives if the filming is done outside of Metro Vancouver or is for visual effects work.

Leitch said the industry in B.C. can only continue to let producers know about the value they provide after years of experience in the business.

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But he also said higher incentives would help keep the B.C. industry in business.

"We certainly think the economic benefits outweigh the costs and that creates a whole bunch of jobs with at least 24,000 working in the industry," he added. "We want to participate in the creative sector. The screen-based industry worldwide is a trillion-dollar industry."

Leitch said B.C. has great centres for visual effects, production crews, and film and TV talent for digital media.

"We're really a one-stop shop here, and there are huge benefits to that. We just have to fight though this period where it gets really tough on the tax-credit side."

Leitch said the B.C. industry will continue to do well if it remains cost effective.

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