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Production of ‘The Plane’ film shores up $136M for Puerto Rico economy

“The Plane,” the latest Hollywood feature film to be produced entirely on the island, will generate some $136 million for the local economy, including hotel stays, withholding tax payments and other investments, government and the movie’s staff confirmed.

Filming began about four months ago and has moved to different locations in and outside the San Juan metropolitan area, including Barrio Obrero, the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba and the Pedrín Zorrilla Stadium, which was transformed into a soundstage for interior shots.

“Our investment, in other words, the tax credits we granted to this project, was $26 million. You don’t have to be a Certified Public Accountant to realize that the return on this investment is excellent,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi during a news conference to offer details on the film.

His comments preceded a pitch for the approval of Senate Bill 552 and House Bill 926 that would increase the cap for available film industry tax credits from the current $38 million to $100 million.

“The current cap makes it impossible to have additional productions here in the future. I believe we must convince the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico that this is cost-effective. So far, the Board has objected to the credit cap being greater than the $50 million that it was in the past,” Pierluisi said.

“But we’ve seen that we’re attractive to this industry and they’re knocking on our door. So, when the Legislative Assembly approves the bills, I can state our case before the Board and convince them,” the governor added.

The credits available for the 2022 fiscal year were exhausted in June — before the year started — and were split among four projects, as News is my Business reported. Those were: “Fantasy Island,” which filmed over the summer and “The Plane.” Coming up are filming of the sequel to the “The Wedding Crashers” and “Gordita Chronicles,” a television series by Sony Pictures that will stream on HBO Max.

Rosi Acosta, director of the government’s Film Industry Development Program, said there are 13 more projects on a waiting list, “which could benefit from an increase in the maximum total of credits available.”  

From 2019 through the end of this year, some 72 film projects including music videos, commercials, movies, television series, short films, video games and animation projects, have been wrapped up, she said.

Meanwhile, the Hollywood production company has reportedly invested $65.7 million, generating about 500 jobs split between cast, crew and production staff that generated a payroll of about $19 million. That represents an injection of $3.8 million into the Treasury Department’s coffers in withholding taxes at a rate of 20%, said Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, in Spanish) Secretary Manuel Cidre.

Over the past four months, the production company has paid for nearly 4,000 hotel room nights. Filming is slated to wrap on Oct. 4.

Butler, producer praise Puerto Rico
“The Plane” is produced by Marc Butan, Alan Siegel, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Puerto Rican film executive Luillo Ruíz, and directed by Jean-Francois Richet.

During the news conference, Siegel had nothing but praise for Puerto Rico and its resources but put out a request for a direct flight from Los Angeles.

“That’s what we need, a direct flight. Otherwise, this place is perfection. I mean, the infrastructure here is wonderful and we’ve had no issues at all. We could have been filming in our backyard in Hollywood and it wouldn’t be as good,” said Siegel.

The film’s leading actor, Gerard Butler, said working in Puerto Rico has “been a joy,”

“I came here once before for one day passing through Puerto Rico and I remember saying to my friends that I felt like every person I met here could be my best friend. They were so nice. So, that’s carried on, having a chance to actually spend some time here and work closely with locals, who are so warm and friendly, and they work hard, and it’s been really awesome,” he said.

“And it’s had to be that way, because it’s a hard movie, it’s a survival movie, and we’re going through so much, so you really need that kind of people to make that kind of movie because it’s easy to start [complaining] and there’s been none of that,” said Butler.

Press conference for “The Plane,” a full-length feature film being produced entirely in Puerto Rico.

At center, Gerard Butler answers questions from News is my Business, as Manuel Cidre (to his left) and Gov. Pierluisi (to his right) listen.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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