Movie jobs are a 'House of Cards'

Gov. Martin O'Malley says the Netflix series "House of Cards" brought $140 million into the state's economy ("'Cards' a good deal, Md. Says," April 30). Where have we heard this before?

In 2010 the Detroit Free Press reported that "Michigan's bid to become a Midwest center of movie production is to get a huge boost Tuesday with the announcement of a Hollywood film production studio and talent agency opening shop in Pontiac. Motown Motion Picture Studios, a new company, will open a $54-million, 600,000-square-foot studio and production facility at General Motors Corp.'s former Centerpoint truck plant and office complex in Pontiac, said Gov. Jennifer Granholm's spokeswoman Liz Boyd."

That hastily constructed building opened in early in 2011 with soundstages and all kinds of Hollywood-type amenities. By the end of 2012 it was empty and the lights had been turned off.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in government incentives had been greedily devoured and the money quickly relocated back to California. Another recent news story reported that the film "Oz the Great and Powerful" cost Michigan taxpayers $40 million and suggested that the generous incentives offered by the state had Disney Co. clicking its heels together three times and saying "there's no place like Michigan" for its "Wizard of Oz" prequel film, which premiered about a month ago.

In Maryland, your article glowingly described the movie production facilities in Joppa and "what amounts to a small Hollywood studio" in Harford County. But despite all of the promised audits and political certainty of strong economic stimulus, we would do well to remember that movie industry jobs are temporary.

Jobs that last a day, a week, or a month are not stable, and the industry that produces them is portable, operates on short term projects, and can be gone in the blink of an eye.

We must beware of politicians throwing taxpayer money at the movie industry with promises of financial windfalls. It seems that we've seen this movie before — in Detroit.

Gary Moyer, Baltimore

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