Motion picture production incentives and filming location decisions: A discrete choice approach

Mark F. Owens, Adam D. Rennhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We use a discrete choice model to study the impact of tax incentives on firm location choices in situations involving heterogeneous geographic characteristics, heterogeneous firm preferences and large choice sets. We apply our model to investigate the impact of movie production incentives on filming location choices for movies produced from 1999 to 2013. We gather the characteristics of filming locations and use a machine-learning technique to define choice sets. We find production incentives can attract movies to a state, but the impact depends on the type of incentive offered, studio characteristics and inherent location geographic characteristics. Mid-sized studios respond to all forms of incentives, major studios respond only to refundable and transferable tax credits, and independent studios are not sensitive to any incentives. We fail to find strong evidence that incentives create a more permanent movie industry in a state. A counterfactual identifies the states most impacted by these policies. We supplement our discrete choice model with a simple cost-benefit analysis, which indicates that movie incentive programs are revenue-negative for states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-709
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Economic Geography
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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