New study looks at the tourism, economic impact of Hollywood South

By Elizabeth Vowell
Baton Rouge, LA (WAFB)

The success of the Louisiana film industry cannot be argued. Its impact, however, may be up for debate.

A state sponsored economic impact study said that in 2013 the film industry brought in around $1.2 billion in sales and generated more than 13,000 direct and indirect jobs.

However, a new study sponsored by the Louisiana Film Entertainment Association and the Motion Pictures Association of America puts those numbers closer to nearly $4 billion in sales and more than 33,000 jobs.

While the studies vary in their methodology, their biggest difference comes down to tourism.

Unlike the previous study, the LFEA's study attempted to calculate the economic impact films had through tourism. The study surveyed nearly 1,400 tourist to Louisiana. More than 14 percent of those said they visited the state because of what they saw on the big screen.

According to study author, Shuprotim Bhaumik, tourism generated by the big screen generated more than $2 billion in economic output. Bhaumik also pointed out that the state still just breaks even on the investments, earning by his calculations about a dollar back for every dollar spent.

Industry insiders say the new study illustrates the rippling benefits of the state film tax credits.

"It's a little more difficult when you start looking at the economic multipliers and the bigger picture, which is the film industry is generating jobs that don't get studied, and nobody really takes into account the effect it takes on tourism," said Patrick Mulhearn of Celtic Media.

Mulhearn says he is not surprised at what he calls an amazing impact of film on tourism. He recalls that when Twilight was filming in Baton Rouge, fans from as far away as France would come to the studio's gates hoping to spot a celebrity.

Mulhearn is also hoping the study has an impact on lawmakers who will be considering several bills to change or adjust the film tax credits.

Senator JP Morrell has proposed a bills to cap the credits at $300 million a year.

"By putting caps in place to know how much could be out there and called in in a given year, the legislature can budget around it, creating predictability and know it's not going to create a budget crisis," said Morrell.

The state's study can be reviewed here, and the industry's study can be reviewed here.