Record editorial: Bill would help ensure Utah isn’t leaving money on the cutting room floor |

Record editorial: Bill would help ensure Utah isn’t leaving money on the cutting room floor

Many Summit County residents were disappointed last summer when news broke that “Yellowstone,” the Paramount Network television drama, was headed to greener pastures after filming its first three seasons in the Park City area.

For local viewers, it was fun to look out for recognizable landmarks, and there was a sense of pride in knowing that many of the picturesque landscapes that were featured in the show are in our backyard.

But the biggest impact of the show’s departure, by far, will be felt economically.

The “Yellowstone” production spent tens of millions of dollars in the area — money that went to restaurants and hotels and a range of other local businesses. But now Montana, which offered the show a larger tax incentive than Utah could muster, will reap those benefits instead.

The show’s departure underscores the need for Utah to increase the pot of cash in its film incentive program, which provides tax rebates to productions that spend a certain amount of money in the state. Lawmakers have an opportunity to do just that before the legislative session closes next month.

S.B. 167, sponsored by Sen. Ron Winterton, whose district includes a large chunk of Summit County, would boost the available money from $6.8 million annually to $10 million. That would help Utah better compete against other states for productions like “Yellowstone,” though it is not as not as transformative as a bigger increase would be. Winterton initially called for a $15 million pool but reduced the dollar figure to improve the chances of passing the legislation.

The larger allotment would have been even better because the film incentive program generates economic rewards that far outpace the investment needed to make it more effective.

It’s a matter of simple accounting: More Hollywood productions equals more money. The 19 of them that took place in Utah in 2018, for instance, collectively spent $88 million in the state and generated 1,900 jobs, according to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Lawmakers would be mistaken not to do all they can to make sure films and TV shows aren’t bypassing Utah — or abandoning the state — on their way to places that are more willing to open the pocketbook for the promise of a lucrative return on investment.

Summit County, in particular, is in a prime position to benefit from the legislation, in large part due to the presence of Utah Film Studios in Quinn’s Junction. The bill’s passage would be a boon for the studio itself, but as “Yellowstone” proved, the economic boost a film or TV production provides extends into the broader community.

The barn door may have closed on “Yellowstone” in Park City. But the Legislature can make sure Utah — and Summit County — rope in the next big production that considers setting up shop in our state.

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