HONG KONG -- The craft folk of Los Angeles County may deplore foreign subsidies that lure movie work away from their home base, but New Zealand intends to slightly expand the reach of its soft money programs for the film and TV production sectors.

The NZ government today unveiled tweaks to its Large Budget Screen Production Grant and its Screen Production Incentive Fund, to make both parts of it accessible to lower budget TV productions.

Changes to the LBSPG include lowering the threshold for the 15% rebate on television production from $15m to $4m of qualifying NZ production expenditure. The threshold for qualifying for the Post, Digital and Visual Effects Grant also lowers from $3 million to $1 million.

Changes to SPIF include the new requirement a minimum non-government investment in qualifying content of at least 10% for films, and at least 25% for television. The threshold for qualifying animation projects is to be reduced from $1 million to $0.4 million per hour.

Movies including the "Lord of the Rings" franchise and "The Hobbit" were produced with NZ incentives. New Line Cinema's "Hobbit" (pictured) on which Peter Jackson this week completed lensing in Wellington, even required the NZ government to rewrite the rules of the LBSPG.

The latest changes were announced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Ministry for Culture and Heritage, after a review of the sector praised the effectiveness of the incentive schemes.

The review said that the LBSPG generated a small net economic benefit; improved NZ's reputation as a viable place to make world-standard productions and to do cutting edge post-production work; increased employment and the local industry's skills base and infrastructure; as well as benefiting the wider economy, including the information and communication technology and tourism sectors and the suppliers of goods and services to the screen production industry.

"The results signal the Government recognizes the value of screen to the New Zealand economy, and the role incentives play in attracting large budget productions and in particular international investment into New Zealand," said Film New Zealand chief executive, Gisella Carr in a statement.


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