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Spielberg to film Lincoln biopic in Va.

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Local,Entertainment,Virginia,Movies,David Sherfinski
After being offered $4.6 million in incentives, renowned movie director Steven Spielberg decided to film his highly anticipated biography on Abraham Lincoln in Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Wednesday.

"We are honored that Steven Spielberg, an award winning and visionary filmmaker, has chosen the commonwealth for this important film," said McDonnell. "It is especially notable coming during the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and emancipation."

The $4.6 million in incentives the state offered Spielberg includes $1 million from the Governor's Motion Picture Opportunity Fund, $2.5 million from a state tax credit program and $1.1 million in in-kind contributions, according to the governor's office.

'Lincoln': A primer
• Will star Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln
• Based on the book "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin
• Screenplay written by Tony Kushner, who last worked with Spielberg on "Munich"
• Filming is scheduled to start this fall, with the film slated for release in 2012
Source: Virginia governor's office

Spielberg could have received about three times the incentives from Georgia or North Carolina, compared with Virginia's offer, said Rita McClenny, the state's film commissioner.

"He's coming here because of the authenticity, because Lincoln actually walked the streets of Richmond," she said.

Virginia makes sure that the return to the state's economy far exceeds the incentives it offers film companies, McClenny said. The incentives are tied to the number of Virginians hired and the purchase of Virginia goods and services.

Last year, the state passed legislation to provide a tax credit of up to 20 percent to companies with expenses of at least $250,000 for movies filmed in the state. The General Assembly also increased the governor's opportunity fund by $1.5 million this year.

Del. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, lamented the millions in incentives and credits.

"The reality today is that these Hollywood moguls have learned how to extract millions of dollars from state governments for their movie location," he said. "Paying a couple million dollars is the price you pay."

Motion picture and video productions produced $346 million in economic activity in Virginia in 2009, according to the governor's office. That represents 2,700 jobs for the state.

The total economic impact from two recent productions filmed in Virginia -- the feature film "Evan Almighty" and the HBO miniseries "John Adams" -- was more than $200 million, according to the Virginia Film Office.

The state doled out about $750,000 from the governor's fund for "John Adams," produced by Tom Hanks and starring Paul Giamatti -- and none for "Evan Almighty," starring Steve Carell, said McClenny.

dsherfinski@washingtonexaminer.com

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