Is Las Vegas Poised to Become the Next Hollywood

“Is Las Vegas Poised to Become the Next Hollywood?”

By Gustavus Betts

The film industry has hopes to firmly establish its presence in southern Nevada. A number of award-winning filmmakers and other creatives are moving to the area, from California, and plans are in the works for big budget film studios and production companies to capitalize on the wide variety of locations and potential tax breaks.

Last spring, actor Mark Wahlberg, Las Vegas senator Roberta Lange (D-NV), and film production companies Birtcher Development, Howard Hughes Corporation, and Sony Pictures lobbied for the Nevada Film Studio Infrastructure Act (SB496), also known as “The Film Bill.” SB496 proposes a $190 billion annual tax credit over the next 20 years for the construction of two film production companies in southern Nevada.

The current Las Vegas tax credit is a $10 million annual allotment that would incentivize some $60 million in local production spending. SB496’s proposed tax credit could generate $55 billion to help boost the local economy, as well as create over 26,000 new jobs. However, the main objective of SB486 remains the creation of two film production campuses.

Birtcher Development proposed to manage and partially finance the proposed Las Vegas Media Campus Project, to be housed at the Harry Reid Research and Technology Park at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. The 34 plus acre site and 800,000 square-foot mixed use development would include film and television production studios rent-free for UNLV students and staff.

Sony Pictures and Howard Hughes Corporation propose to join forces on a second production studio and mixed-use retail space, the Summerlin Production Studio Project, to include built sets as well as sound stages. What’s more, SB496 would require editors, boom operators, camera workers, and behind-the-scenes jobs to be filled by local Las Vegans. Also, these companies would receive tax credits based on 30 percent of the amount of direct production expenditures. Companies would also be required to indicate that film productions were filmed in Nevada in the ending credits. Wahlberg, who moved his family to Las Vegas in 2022, wants to create a Hollywood 2.0, and has tried to convince Nevada State lawmakers to pass the proposed bill.

“I would love to see us building studios, creating jobs and just diversifying the [local] economy,” Wahlberg told CNBC. “We want to create as much opportunity for as many people as possible. We want to uncover new and exciting talent.”

Senator Lange argues that passing SB496 would also supplement the local tourism industry – citing Hollywood’s studio tours to Paramount, Sony, and Universal. She believes an operation like this could benefit Las Vegas as well. After almost four years of planning, “The Film Bill” was introduced to Nevada legislators on May 11, 2023. Unfortunately, SB496 failed to come to a vote due to time constraints for debate before the end of the legislative session on June 5th, 2023. However, CEO of Birtcher Development, Brandon Birtcher, remains hopeful on the bill’s future. “What we’re doing is bringing the film and television production capital of the world, southern California, just a few hours east, to southern Nevada.”

Those familiar with the process say, the failure of passage is because of the bill’s omission of infrastructure development in northern Nevada. Senator Lange believes an amendment could include a study on how SB496 could impact the northern sector of Nevada. Other sources feel that the bill, or similar legislation, has a good chance of passing during the next legislative session in 2025. Potential studio builders appear to not be deterred, and remain fully engaged in conversations with the state. 

As of March 20, 2024 the Clark County Zoning Commission approved multiple variances that will allow for the development of Summerlin Production Studios and the surrounding mixed-use project on Town Center Drive off the 215 Beltway. The massive project could create over 10,000 new jobs and will encompass 10 buildings with approximately 500,000 square feet designed to support a film studio and production facility.