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Massachusetts Leaders Ponder Tax Incentives To Launch Broadway Hits From Boston

The Colonial Theatre in Boston

Massachusetts lawmakers hope the lights don’t stay dim for long when the curtains come down at the end of the pre-Broadway run of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” at Emerson College’s Colonial Theatre in August. 

State politicians are mulling the idea to offer tax credits to producers who debut Broadway musicals in Massachusetts before taking them to the Great White Way. The measure is part of an economic development bill the Massachusetts House of Representatives sent to the Senate last week, the Boston Globe reports

The legislation would enable as much as $5M annually to subsidize productions that would ultimately end up in New York or on national tours. Massachusetts already offers film tax credits that have made the state a popular place to produce Hollywood films.

Filmmakers can get a 25% production credit, a 25% payroll credit and an exemption on sales tax if they film in-state. Projects have to spend over $50K in Massachusetts for the payroll credit and spend over half the total budget or film at least half the production time in-state to be eligible for the sales tax exemption and production credit. 

Critics have chided the film credit for largely benefiting Boston, but the theater credit could be a boon for smaller communities. The measure would enable theaters as small as 175 seats to participate, so venues outside of Greater Boston would still be eligible. 

Boston was once known as a tryout market for would-be Broadway productions, attracting the likes of Cole Porter, Tennessee Williams and Neil Simon. “Moulin Rouge!” is the first production to emerge after Emerson and the U.K.-based Ambassador Theatre Group have spent an undisclosed sum (believed to be more than $11M, according to WBUR) in renovating the Colonial Theatre to bring more pre-Broadway runs to the venue.