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'Dolphin Tale' filming brought jobs, made $16 million splash in Florida

Winter, star of Dolphin Tale, swims on in Clearwater, which will continue to benefit from the exposure.

Associated Press

Winter, star of Dolphin Tale, swims on in Clearwater, which will continue to benefit from the exposure.

This weekend, moviegoers across the country learned about Winter and her Dolphin Tale, already familiar around Tampa Bay.

On Monday, local residents began learning about the movie's economic impact on Florida and Pinellas County, where it was principally filmed, through data released by the state's Office of Film & Entertainment.

According to records provided by film commissioner Lucia Fishburne, Dolphin Tale brought just under $17 million to Florida coffers — nearly half of its estimated budget — during 55 production days in 2010.

Of that total, slightly more than $7.5 million was paid in salaries to nearly 1,300 Floridians employed as crew members, actors, extras and stand-ins. The remainder was paid to in-state vendors for lodging, equipment, supplies and services such as catering. A breakdown between what was spent in Pinellas and what was spent in the rest of the state wasn't available.

"That's one thing we like about this industry," Fishburne said Monday during a break from the Governor's Conference on Tourism in Hollywood, Fla. "It crosses over to so many kinds of businesses."

Fishburne's agency crunched the numbers from receipts for in-state expenditures provided by Alcon Entertainment, the production company behind Dolphin Tale. As a result of the disclosure, Alcon recouped more than $5 million of its budget (variously estimated at between $34 million and $37 million) through Florida's Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program, a tax credit plan created to lure film, television and video game productions to the state.

Here's the breakdown of Dolphin Tale economic statistics that will be presented to the Legislature Saturday in an annual tax incentive report:

• Total eligible Florida wages paid: $7,525,201.84

• Expenditures for vendors (catering, rentals, etc.): $9,420,722.37

• Jobs created for crew members: 311

• Jobs created for actors: 18

• Jobs created for extras and stand-ins (even for as little as one day): 959

• Total number of jobs created: 1,288

• Lodging expenditures: $736,355 for 5,875 room nights

• Total qualified Florida expenditures: $16,945,924

• Final tax credit award: $5,038,501

Representatives of Alcon didn't reply Monday to requests for comments on the figures. During production, Alcon repeatedly stated its policy to not publicly discuss budgetary matters.

A total of $242 million was earmarked by the Legislature in July 2010 for the incentive program, to be allocated to qualifying productions over a five-year period.

"Investing in this industry is important even beyond just the immediate influx of jobs and spending in a community," Fishburne said.

"You've got primary vendors; rental houses; sound stages that you associate with the industry. But you also have — and this is big for our state — everything from sources for lumber like Lowe's or Home Depot, to small mom-and-pop (businesses like) florists and nurseries. You have heavy retail, caterers, restaurants, hotels, all of the things it takes to make a movie.

"Dolphin Tale is going to have an impact on that area for a long, long time, in terms of raising people's awareness of that area, as well as literally having an attraction with the aquarium where people will come to see Winter."

Other productions making use of the tax credit plan include the television series Charlie's Angels, Burn Notice and The Glades, and the movie version of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages, opening in 2012. Fishburne said more than 340 applications for the program were processed by her office since its inception.

Steve Persall can be reached at or (727) 893-8365.

.Fast facts

Film incentives

For information about Florida's complex Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program, visit

'Dolphin Tale' filming brought jobs, made $16 million splash in Florida 09/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 9:41am]
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