Avatar sequels may cancel planned New Zealand filming over incentives issue
New Zealand may lose location filming for James Cameron’s Avatar sequels if its filming incentive programme is not improved. Cameron is planning three back-to-back sequels, but with a production budget reportedly approaching a billion dollars, he is looking for a generous tax incentive.
The filmmaker has bought land in New Zealand and a Wellington shoot appeared to have been confirmed earlier this year. However, comments from the government have suggested that an incentive package is still being negotiated.
“Obviously New Zealand's very keen to do it because there's a strong association with James Cameron [and] also a strong association with [Peter Jackson’s Wellington-based visual effects company] Weta Digital,” Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told TVNZ: “So yes, we're keen to. But also, it can't be done at any price."
New Zealand is under pressure to match more generous filming incentive programmes on offer elsewhere in the world.
“There’s still, I think, discussions going on, and there's no doubt about that. [The] film commission and Film New Zealand are working with the producers and the director and are keeping me informed as to how things are progressing," Joyce added.
“The accountants are looking at just the bottom line and going, 'Well, we'll go to the place that gives us the most back, that gives us the best value.' So we're not competitive anymore at that level,” added Graham Dunster of Auckland Actors to the outlet.
The government appears to be treading carefully with the Avatar sequels. Hosting the films would be a major – and perhaps necessary – boost for New Zealand’s production industry, but the government faced criticism for the incentive concessions it made to secure Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films.
New Zealand offers a 15% filming incentive for big-budget feature and TV productions, but the country is under pressure to match more generous filming incentive programmes on offer elsewhere in the world.
There also seems to be a greater willingness to focus on high-end TV, given that the government recently introduced a 70% reduction to the spending threshold television productions need to reach to qualify for incentive support.
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