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HindustanTimes Thu,23 Oct 2014

House of Cards producers want more tax breaks or else will move out of Maryland

Reuters  Washington, February 21, 2014
First Published: 23:36 IST(21/2/2014) | Last Updated: 23:48 IST(21/2/2014)

The production company behind Netflix Inc's political thriller House of Cards is taking a step that could have come straight from the show's script: threatening to move filming from Maryland unless lawmakers provide bigger tax breaks.

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Media Rights Capital wrote to several state lawmakers and the governor of Maryland, where the show is filmed, saying it was halting production plans in the meantime, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

In a letter that echoes the wrangling seen in the Emmy Award-winning series, the Beverly Hills, California-based company urged Governor Martin O'Malley and legislators to pass a law increasing tax credits available for film and television production in the state.

"In the event sufficient incentives do not become available, we will have to break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state," the company wrote, according to a copy the undated letter published by the newspaper.

A spokeswoman for O'Malley's office had no immediate comment on the letter. Representatives for Media Rights Capital also had no immediate reaction.

The second season of "House of Cards," which has a particular following in the nation's capital, was released on February 14.

Starring Kevin Spacey as underhanded congressman Francis Underwood and Robin Wright as his cool-as-ice wife and partner in boundless political ambition, the series has dramatized the uglier side of US politics.

Media Rights Capital had been planning to start taping the next season this spring but put that on hold until June "to ensure there has been a positive outcome of the legislation," it wrote.

Maryland already agreed to provide $25 million in such tax credits this year, according to the Washington Post, adding that "House of Cards" got $11 million in credits for its first season and could get $15 million back for its second one.

But state lawmakers have not agreed to keep up such credits, although two pending bills would increase them.

Backers of such production tax credits say they help create jobs and boost the local economy. For Maryland, they have helped attract production companies to historic Baltimore and other locales to tape numerous movies and shows, including HBO's Veep.

But some critics challenge the fiscal responsibility of giving away too much.

"We're almost being held for ransom," state Delegate Mark Fisher, a Republican from Calvert County, told the Washington Post.

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