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'House of Cards' Producers Want More Tax Credits to Stay in Maryland

A letter from the show's production company to the governor says that other states will be considered as a home base for the series if tax credits aren't increased.

Gov. Martin O'Malley on the set of "House of Cards." File|Patch
Gov. Martin O'Malley on the set of "House of Cards." File|Patch

Even as fans binge-watch season 2 of political thriller “House of Cards” on Netflix and state development leaders tout the jobs created by the series filmed in Maryland, the show’s producers are demanding increased tax credits to remain in the state.

The show’s production company recently sent Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley a letter with this warning: Give us millions more dollars in tax credits, or we will “break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state,” The Washington Post reports. A similar letter went to the speaker of the House of Delegates, Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).

The show stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as Frank and Claire Underwood, playing roles as the vice president and his wife, in a political drama that started filming in Harford County in 2012 and returned in 2013 for its second season.

The second season of House of Cards was released on Netflix on Valentine's Day. 

In recent years, Maryland has spent more than $40 million to reward movie and television production companies that choose to film in the state, the Post says, such as “House of Cards” and the Julia Louis-Dreyfus series “Veep.”

“This just keeps getting bigger and bigger” Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), who until now has supported film tax credits, said at a hearing on the issue last week. “And my question is: When does it stop?”

Both seasons of “House of Cards” were filmed in Maryland, mostly in Baltimore and Harford County. The show finished its second season in December and has 180 days from then to submit its application for filming the third season, according to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

The show's first season had an economic impact estimated at $138 million, Maryland Film Office Director Jack Gerbes told the Baltimore Sun. That amount included the hiring of 2,198 crew, actors and extras, plus purchasing goods and services from 1,814 Maryland businesses.

The tax credit allows production companies to receive up to $25 million in tax credits for spending at least $500,000 in Maryland, according to the L.A. Business Journal.

After each season, Maryland has reimbursed Media Rights Capital, the show’s California-based production company, for a chunk of production expenses, the Post says. For the first season, that totaled more than $11 million in tax credits. For the second season, reimbursements could reach $15 million.

Maryland economic development officials wanted to promise “House of Cards” another $15 million in credits for the third season, which is supposed to start filming in the spring, but has been pushed back to June, the Post says. Lawmakers have not agreed to boost the $7.5 million in tax credits the state allocates annually for film and television projects. Two bills that would increase the amount — to $11 million or $18.5 million — are in committee.

Charlie Goldstein, a Media Rights Capital senior vice president, wrote in his letter that the show’s backers must keep their options open, including looking at incentives from other states. He does not specify the amount of tax credits sought from Maryland.

“I wanted you to be aware that we are required to look at other states in which to film on the off chance that the legislation does not pass, or does not cover the amount of tax credits for which we would qualify,” the letter says. “I am sure you can understand that we would not be responsible financiers and a successful production company if we did not have viable options available.”

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tanisha February 22, 2014 at 08:01 AM
when does this stop being a good deal for Maryland?
Harford County Native February 22, 2014 at 08:31 PM
Hmm sounds like Blackmail to me. Give us tax breaks or we go somewhere else. I say let them go.
John February 22, 2014 at 09:19 PM
Tell us where to forward Kevin's mail should any arrive after you've moved on.

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