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Disney’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ to receive $18 million in California film tax credits

The biggest entertainment company in the world is in line to get the largest production incentive ever from the state of California. The state film commission has approved about $18 million in credits for the upcoming Walt Disney Co. movie “A Wrinkle in Time.” The film, to be directed by “Selma” filmmaker Ava DuVernay, is among 28 movie projects selected under California’s film and television tax credit program, which was revised and expanded in 2015 to bring more movie and TV production back to the state.

Previously, major studio films like “A Wrinkle in Time” were ineligible to receive credits. The new program, however, allows movies with budgets of $75 million or more to qualify for tax breaks.Filmmakers can recoup up to 25% of their spending (up to the first $100 million) on crew member salaries and other qualified costs, such as building sets. Studios like Burbank-based Disney can then use such credits to offset state tax liabilities they have in California.

“A Wrinkle in Time” will bring $85 million in qualified spending to California, state officials said. The state does not release individual tax credit applications because they contain confidential taxpayer information. But the California Film Commission said the Disney film will employ nearly 400 cast and crew members and generate $44 million in wages for so-called below-the-line workers such as technicians and stylists. In the latest allocation, the film commission approved a total of $109 million in tax credits among the 28 projects selected out of 91 applications. Projects are approved based on how many jobs they will create, among other criteria.

“A Wrinkle in Time,” which is expected to go into production later this year, is a live-action adaptation of the 1963 fantasy novel of the same name. The book, by Madeleine L’Engle, centers on a little girl whose scientist father disappears after working on a secret project involving access to another dimension. The film adaptation will star Oprah Winfrey. The script was written by Jennifer Lee, who penned “Frozen,” the highest grossing animated movie of all time.

The tax credit program made it possible to base “A Wrinkle in Time” in California, the film’s producer, Jim Whitaker, said in a statement. “We considered several other locations, but felt that the spectacular landscapes and intimate, real settings found in California perfectly met Ava DuVernay’s directorial vision,” said Whitaker, whose credits include “8 Mile” and Disney’s forthcoming “Pete’s Dragon.” Other upcoming films set to receive tax credits include Paramount Pictures’ “Friday the 13th,” “A Star is Born” from Warner Bros and “Monolith” from Lionsgate.

Like “A Wrinkle in Time,” many of the films will be shot outside the Los Angeles area. Projects that film outside a roughly 30-mile radius of L.A. can receive an additional 5% credit. Eighteen of the announced projects come from major studios, while the other 10 come from independent production companies. The movies are on track to spend $880 million in California, with $326 million in qualified wages going to more than 5,900 crew and cast members, according to the statement. In recent years, major studios have flocked to Georgia, Louisiana, Canada and Britain, all of which offer lucrative film tax credits to projects with large budgets. The exodus of film jobs, especially those on major Hollywood movies, prompted state lawmakers to bolster the incentive program in 2014. Many major studios have tapped the program in recent years.

Disney is known in particular for paying close attention to film and TV production incentives and seeking out locales that reward projects with lucrative tax credits. In recent years, the company has shot several movies in Georgia, which has become a haven for production, including the Marvel Studios-produced “Ant-Man” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

Last year, two Disney productions were awarded film tax credits by the California Film Commission. According to 2015 data from the commission, “Whale” was approved for a $6.8-million credit and “Overnight” was approved for an $11.6-million credit.

tyler.hersko@latimes.com, daniel.miller@latimes.com

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