SALT LAKE CITY — Senate Bill 49, sponsored by State Sen. Ron Winterton, who represents parts of Summit and Wasatch counties, would exempt rural Utah film productions from current program limits. state tax incentives.
To qualify as rural, projects must be state-approved and filmed primarily in third-, fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-class counties, which excludes Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber, Washington, and Cache counties.
The state provides up to $8.3 million in tax refunds annually to state film productions. Projects can recoup 20-25% of the taxes they pay on direct production expenses, which include goods, services, wages, and income.
“The tax incentive we provide for productions to come to our state is significantly lower than other states,” Alecia Williams, executive director of nonprofit Cinema Slopes, told KSL.
“Utah, at 8.3 (million dollars), it is very difficult for us to compete”,
SB 49 passed the House 50-22 and the Senate 22-7 earlier this month.
In Utah, any bill passed by the Legislature that is not returned by the Governor within ten days, not counting Sundays and the day it was received, becomes law without a signature.
Some lawmakers had argued it was a giveaway to Hollywood, while reports highlighted the governor’s fundamental support for rural parts of the state. Cox ended up doing nothing on the bill, and it became law on Thursday.
About 75% of the first three seasons of Yellowstone were filmed in Utah, contributing nearly $80 million to the state’s economy, especially in filming locations like Oakley, Kamas and Heber City. One of the most frequently used locations for Yellowstone was Thousand Peaks Ranch in Oakley, where Park City Powder Cats operates. It is also the main location of the film Wind River.
The show moved to Montana for its fourth season, where the state legislature raised its tax refund cap to $12 million in 2021.
The series’ movie star and icon, Kevin Costner, has announced plans to shoot an approximately $50 million five-movie Western theatrical series titled Horizon in Utah. He expressed his support for SB 49 at the start of the legislative session.
“I had long dreamed of making my film in Utah and exploring this state was an incredible experience. My greatest hope is that the state will support SB49 and make this dream come true. I don’t really want to go anywhere else with these five movies,” Costner said in a statement earlier this year.
The project, which focuses on 15 years of Civil War-era expansion and settlement in the West, is set to begin filming in Utah on August 29.
“America’s westward expansion was fraught with peril and intrigue, from the natural elements, to the interactions with the indigenous peoples who lived on the land, to the determination and often the cruelty of those who sought to settle there.” Costner told Deadline. “Horizon tells the story of this journey in an honest and forthcoming way, highlighting the perspectives and consequences of the characters’ life and death decisions.