Tax Proposal to Help Live Theater Brings Out Stars
Live commercial theater from Broadway to Los Angeles would get a huge financial boost under a change in the federal tax code that's being championed by such actors as Neil Patrick Harris, Bryan Cranston and Tyne Daly.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer's proposal would allow 100 percent of any live theater investment to be deducted up to $15 million per production, whether the eventual show is a hit or a flop, a benefit that is currently being granted to film and TV projects.
"Investing in Broadway and live theater is often a big risk. It's difficult to get banks and financial institutions to back up these productions," Schumer said. His amendment, he added, "will put Broadway and live theater on the same footing as TV and film."
Schumer said the change would create "thousands and thousands" more jobs for actors and backstage workers, and produce more shows nationwide, giving a shot in the arm to the hotel, restaurant and taxi industries. He noted that other countries also grant live theater similar breaks.
The change was added to a tax bill that recently passed the Senate Finance Committee and Schumer expects it to be voted on by the full Senate within a month and a half. The House could vote on it as early as this summer, he said.
The New York senator was joined at a Monday news conference by Harris, Cranston, Daly and producer Harvey Weinstein, as well as cast members from "The Phantom of the Opera," ''Newsies" and "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella."
Cranston, the "Breaking Bad" star currently playing President Lyndon B. Johnson in the play "All the Way," said the tax change would enable theater producers to take more chances on "story-telling that may be on the fringe but just may be incredibly important."
"Full houses is what we're looking for," Cranston said. "Adventurous, new storytelling and making sure that every theater in New York has a play. It's good for commerce. It's good for actors. It's good for taxi drivers and hotel workers and restaurant workers. So it's good all around."
The backers of the change pointed out that the benefits go far beyond New York. In the 2008-2009 theater season - the most recent year for which data is available - some 40 touring Broadway shows performed in 192 venues to more than 13 million theater-goers, contributing almost $3.4 billion to the U.S. economy.
Weinstein, who has produced stage hits like "Billy Elliot: The Musical" and "August: Osage County," noted that he'd recently taken the Peter Pan musical "Finding Neverland" to Great Britain to take advantage of that nation's more attractive tax breaks. "If we had more support for Broadway, people like myself would be more adventurous," he said.