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Talking Points

House leaders propose tax incentives for Broadway-bound shows

The company of American Repertory Theater's “Jagged Little Pill.”Evgenia Eliseeva

Coming soon to a theater near you: tax incentives?

State lawmakers just revived an idea that has been kicking around Beacon Hill for several years: state tax credits that would encourage producers to debut Broadway-bound shows in Massachusetts.

House leaders tucked the measure into an economic development bill that they sent over to the Senate this week. This legislation would allow for up to $5 million a year in credits to subsidize theatrical productions that are destined for New York or national tours. The tax credits for qualified shows could equal 35 percent of a production’s in-state labor costs, and another 25 percent of other expenses.


Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante pushed for the amendment. She’s emboldened by what she calls a local theater renaissance, as evidenced by the national debuts of “Jagged Little Pill” at A.R.T. in Cambridge and “Moulin Rouge!” at the newly renovated Colonial Theatre in Boston.

By allowing theaters with as few as 175 seats to participate, smaller venues such as the Gloucester Stage Co. (in Ferrante’s hometown) could benefit. Ferrante also sees a spillover effect, as nearby restaurants and hotels experience an influx of theatergoers.

It’s unclear how the Senate will react, particularly with only about two weeks left of formal sessions for the year. These credits resemble the controversial incentives that the state offers the film industry. Efforts to rein those in through annual caps and other limits have come up short on Beacon Hill. But then, lawmakers know it’s harder to take a subsidy away than to simply not offer it in the first place. Ferrante hopes the $5 million cap will make her proposal less of a jagged little pill for the tax-incentive critics to swallow.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.