The recently released Dolphin Tale is not just a box office success. The film also was a boffo hit for Florida and Pinellas County, generating nearly $17 million in economic impact in much-needed jobs while providing a boost to area businesses. The movie, about an injured dolphin fitted with a prosthetic tail fin, was among the first cinematic efforts to benefit from an innovative Florida program to provide transferable tax credits to filmmakers willing to bring their productions to the state. At long last, Florida may be poised to regain a reputation as a film-friendly place for Hollywood to do business.
Based on the true story of Winter the injured dolphin and filmed at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and throughout Pinellas County, Dolphin Tale, which stars Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr., took in $19.1 million at the box office in the first week of its release, an impressive start to recoup the movie's modest $37 million budget. During its 2010 filming, the movie's production company, Alcon Entertainment, spent almost $17 million throughout the area on crew members, extras, catering, rentals, lodging and various other services. The state's Office of Film & Entertainment estimates about 1,300 Floridians earned a paycheck all because of an endearing dolphin.
This could be the start of something big. In 2010, the Florida Legislature approved $242 million in transferable tax credits over the next five years to production companies as an incentive to bring their cameras to the state. The creative tax credit program was worth $5 million to Alcon Entertainment's Dolphin Tale bottom line. And the state expects the tax credit initiative to generate $419 million to the Florida economy while creating 38,000 film industry-related jobs.
At the same time, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has benefited from the positive public relations buzz surrounding the family film with a sixfold increase in visitors eager to get a glimpse of Winter.
Word is obviously getting out that Florida is open for business among producers. The tax credit incentive program has attracted other productions to the state such as the television series Charlie's Angels, Burn Notice and The Glades, with an additional 340 applications for the tax credit program processed by the state since it became law.
With the success of Dolphin Tale and an innovative tax credit program to lure more filmmakers, Florida is demonstrating that it is ready for its close-up.