Movies In Las Cruces Nm – What do Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Ryan Phillipe and Netflix have in common? They all heralded the return of the film industry to Las Cruces in 2021. A year earlier, the global pandemic had altered the landscape of our society in ways we have yet to fully understand. The film industry, hit hard by the shutdowns and social distancing that came into effect in March 2020, was no exception. Some wondered if the pandemic could spell the end of filmmaking in New Mexico. These naysayers were quickly proven wrong.
“Production was halted around the world at the start of the pandemic,” said Amber Dodson, director of the New Mexico Film Office. “In New Mexico, production was halted from March to September 2020. However, since we started production, it has been business as usual.”
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A promising start, but in Las Cruces, where the nascent film industry has struggled to establish itself for more than a decade, a comeback would prove nothing short of miraculous. Of course, it didn’t start that way.
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“We were hit pretty hard and didn’t really see activity pick up until April 2021,” said Jon Sepp, Las Cruces film liaison. “For FY21 [July 2020 – June 2021], we had a total of nine productions and only one of them was a feature film. Total direct spending on productions in FY21 was approximately $473,000. Not as much as we would have liked, but pretty good considering we were in a pandemic for most of this fiscal year.
And now the good news. “While I don’t have numbers yet for this fiscal year, I can tell you that from July to August there was a direct spend of $500,000,” Jon continued. “The first two months of FY22 were better than all of FY21. We are on track to have the best year in film and television production than Las Cruces and Doña Ana County have ever known. Before that, the best year we had was fiscal year 2019, with approximately $2.6 million in direct spending. We hope to double that in 2022.”
These numbers, while modest compared to those in northern New Mexico, are indicative of what is happening across the state. According to the New Mexico Film Office, FY21 saw an increase of more than $100 million in direct spending in the New Mexico economy, compared to FY19, which had previously been the most important year for the film industry. . By all accounts, FY22 was already shaping up to be a record-breaking one even before the end of 2021.
While much has been made of the production facilities built by Netflix and NBC Universal in early 2021, which injected millions of dollars into the economy, that doesn’t really explain the increase in production in the New South -Mexico. Much of this action can be attributed to the “increase credit” given to the already significant 25-30% tax incentive for film production, which took effect in April 2019.
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The responsible bill (Senate Bill 2: Film Tax Credit Changes) more than doubles the cap on rebates to eligible film and television productions in New Mexico and provides an additional 5 percent credit. for productions that film in Las Cruces or anywhere outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. At the time, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the bill’s signing “historic.” Two and a half years later, she was proven right.
Sen. Jeff Steinborn and the city-funded, state-sanctioned Film Las Cruces board of directors have long dreamed of southern New Mexico getting a piece of the lucrative movie pie that has made northern New Mexico New Mexico, the Mecca of cinema. . By spearheading the stimulus credit and pushing it through legislation, Senator Steinborn was finally able to achieve what few believed possible.
“With this expansion of New Mexico’s film incentive program,” Senator Steinborn said at the time, “Las Cruces and other emerging film production communities will become more competitive and attractive as film destinations. filming”.
Rep. Antonio “Mo” Maestas, who carried the bill in the New Mexico House of Representatives, supported the idea. The bill, he said, “would bring tens of millions of dollars to our economy, which would multiply again and again.”
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The pandemic put an end to that promise, but now, just months after the industry began to come back to life, we are seeing the benefits of this legislation.
“This extra 5 percent credit for films filmed outside of Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties has been a huge boon,” said Jon of Film Las Cruces. “I would say that’s one of the main drivers of all the success we’re seeing right now.”
That’s why, in the fall of 2021, Las Cruces saw big productions bringing makeovers, explosions, and star power to the area, and industry giant Netflix converted the town of Mesilla into a city Mexican actress from the 1990s for the family feature film Chupa. But these prestigious projects are not the only productions to take place here.
According to Jon, a variety of feature films have been filming in the area throughout much of 2021. “Mark Wahlberg’s company Unrealistic Ideas was here in July filming a series called Atomic Gold,” he said. “Another feature film, The Price You Pay (starring veteran actor Vernon Wells), was filmed here from July 26 to August 13. We then shot a $60,000 short film called Infraction which was shot here in July. There was also another independent television show called Surviving the Cartel that was filmed here for about a week in July, as well as a short film called Saving Faith that was filmed here in October.
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All of these actions have led Las Cruces to become what the Albuquerque Journal calls “a movie hot spot.” But this interest is not limited to stargazing. According to the New Mexico Film Office, the Gibson film Hot Seat, the Willis Knight film and the Phillipe Locksmith film each employed approximately 50 New Mexico crew members, 10 New Mexico lead actors and 200 background talent. from New Mexico. This is very good news, not only for the industry, but also for the economy.
Still, it may be a little early to declare Las Cruces the new Hollywood. The effects of the pandemic are still being felt and changes are still underway within the film industry as a whole. Despite this, the future looks bright for those on the front lines.
“I would like to say that this is what the Las Cruces film industry is going to look like from now on,” Jon said. “But we cannot afford to become complacent and stop the commercialization of the region. There are no guarantees in this industry. I think we really need to keep our efforts at an all-time high.
As for Amber Dodson, she is optimistic that, despite the pandemic, New Mexico is on the rise. “We have a strong pipeline of projects through 2022,” she said. “The New Mexico Film Office continues to experience increased growth, not only because of our world-class team and talent, our locations, our competitive film incentives and all the additional assets the state offers, but also to the leadership and response of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. to the COVID-19 pandemic keeps New Mexico at the top of industry decision-makers’ lists for where to locate production.
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Carol McCall, president of the nonprofit Mesilla Valley Film Society, is eager for moviegoers to return to Mesilla’s historic Fountain Theater, even as it faces challenges like those of other arthouse theaters across the country.
Carol recognizes the impact of streaming technology, the challenges caused by the pandemic in finding both volunteers and audiences, and changes in community expectations for programming.
“Since the pandemic, movie theaters across the country have not been doing well,” Carol said. She explains that people have become comfortable with streaming and customers are hesitant to return to theaters.
“There are many other options than going to the theater,” Carol observes of the impact of technology. Many people now watch movies on computers, phones, and even watches. “Those of us who grew up with the movie experience” have different expectations of watching movies, she notes.
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“Coming to the Fountain Theater is an experience,” Carol enthuses. It highlights the original nature of the renovated early 1900s theater, from its murals of local scenes to its “hole-in-the-wall” bathrooms. The theater has a very different character and history from the usual multiplex experience.
Theater itself is a community and it is also part of the larger community, she explained. “People watching movies at home aren’t getting the community experience,” Carol said. “It’s really important.”
At the theater, many patrons and volunteers know each other, and there is time before the movie as well as space in the theater to socialize. In this relaxed atmosphere, viewers can slip out to the car to buy a sweater or head to the La Posta bar next door to bring back a glass of beer, wine or a cocktail. Even the snack bar offerings are an experience, including
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