A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner (photo from WikiCommons)

When Jennifer Garner told a Detroit radio station that she and her husband Ben Affleck would spend the summer in Detroit while Affleck was working on the Batman-Superman blockbuster, it made national news.

MLive gushed: "If you love trying to track down celebrities in Detroit, then you'll want to be on the lookout in the coming months for one of Hollywood's biggest power couples."

What wasn't reported is that Michigan taxpayers could pay part of the rent for the Hollywood power couple's stay in the state. Affleck has made $10 million or more eight times for acting in a movie, according to the Internet Movie Database

The Superman-Batman movie was awarded a film incentive of $35 million in August by the Michigan Film Office for a projected $131 million of in-state expenditures.

Michelle Grinnell, spokeswoman for the Michigan Film Office, said living expenses can be covered, but whether Affleck or the production company would get reimbursed for any costs for living in Michigan depends on the actor's contract with the production company.

"And our office does not get involved with those contracts," Grinnell said. "In cases where it may qualify, it would count toward the $2 million cap on eligible compensation per employee written into the statute. Expenses incurred moving possessions would not qualify."

The Michigan Film Office lists housing as an eligible expense for reimbursement under its FAQ for producers.

Many films in Michigan have spent millions in expenses on housing as part of the overall costs that are reimbursed by state taxpayers.

The movie, "Oz: The Great and Powerful," had $5.2 million in lodging expenses in 2010 as part of the $104.8 million spent in Michigan. That movie received $39.8 million in tax dollars for film incentives and paid for some housing costs.

Leon Drolet, chairman of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said he hopes Affleck's summer stay in Michigan wouldn't be put on the tab of the taxpayers.

"If that were to happen, it would transform him from playing Superman to playing the Joker with the butt of the joke being on the taxpayers," Drolet said. "The real villains here are the legislators who continue to force taxpayers to subsidize Hollywood stars and studios."

The state spent $50 million in 2013 on the film incentive program. Gov. Rick Snyder attempted to slash that $50 million budget in half in his 2015 budget proposal. The governor and House Republicans tried to end the program last year, but Senate Republicans managed to ensure that it continued.

The film incentives pay qualified production companies up to 32 percent back on in-state expenditures. The incentive adds an extra 3 percent if the filming is done in one of Michigan's qualified production or post-production facilities. From 2008 to 2011, the film incentive was as high as 42 percent.

Film incentive programs have been slammed by economists from the conservative Tax Foundation, the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Senate Fiscal Agency in Michigan, which found a return of only $13.5 million on $125 million spent for 2010-11. The Senate Fiscal Agency also reported that nearly half of the credits were spent out of Michigan, with no discernible effect on the state economy.

Crown City Pictures did not respond to a request for comment asking if they would request lodging costs to be reimbursed by the state.

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See also:

Batman and Superman vs. Taxpayers

Record Profits For Warner Bros. Doesn't Stop State From Giving Company Huge Subsidy 

Five Reasons Government Subsidies For Films Are A Bad Idea

Box Office Bombs: Made In Michigan

Film Incentives: The $50 Million Sequel

Hollywood Transforms Itself to Milk Multiple States For Movie Money

Public Employee Pension Systems Raided To Pay Film Studio Bills

Big Hollywood Bailout: Taxpayers Spent Nearly $40 Million To Subsidize Disney's 'Oz'

Cost of Film Program Could Repair Over 5 million Potholes

State Paying For Films From Here To Eternity?

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