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'Avengers Infinity War' coming to Cleveland? Movie studio built on old Geauga Lake property? Both possible say Russo Brothers

Cleveland's Joe and Anthony Russo, Captain America directors
Ivan Schwarz, Greater Cleveland Film Commission, Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, Cleveland natives and Marvel directors.
They didn’t share any Captain America: Civil War spoilers, but directors Joe and Anthony Russo told fans that Avengers: Infinity War could land in Cleveland.

“It’s on the list,” said Anthony.

The reveal took place Saturday during a Wizard World Comic-Con Cleveland panel titled Let’s Shut Down Some Streets: Bringing the Avengers, Captain America and the Russo Brothers to Cleveland.

The Russos, who grew up in Cleveland and graduated from Case Western Reserve University, were joined by Ivan Schwarz, director of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. The trio discussed how the region could grow its production slate and how it could attract more features to Northeast Ohio.

The first step, said Schwarz, was getting the Ohio legislature to raise the motion picture tax incentive from $25 million a year to $75 million. That legislation will go before Ohio lawmakers this spring.

Shooting 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' on Cleveland's Shoreway

Why we should raise the Ohio Film Tax Credit

While most think of a film incentive as a tax break for filmmakers, today’s film incentive varies not only from state-to-state, but in structure, type, and size as well.  Tax credits and exemptions are often included, but other incentive programs might include cash grants, fee-free locations or other perks.

The Ohio Film Tax Credit provides for a refundable credit against the corporation franchise or income tax for motion pictures produced in Ohio. The tax credit is equal to 25% of non-wage and nonresident wage Ohio production expenditures and 35% of Ohio resident wage production expenditures. Up to $5 million in credits is available per production.

According to an economic impact study done by Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University released in December, and reported by Freshwater Cleveland, Ohio’s tax credit has created the equivalent of 1,729 full-time jobs since 2011 and generated more than $400 million in economic impact. For every $1 provided by the tax credit, $2 returns to the economy.

“It’s not a subsidy for filmmakers,” Schwarz explained. “The incentive creates jobs and builds infrastructure. And people want to shoot here. Without the increase in incentive, Schwarz will have to continue to turn some big budget pictures away, he said.

Joe Russo backed him up, saying that Marvel crews on both The Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier called Cleveland their favorite town to shoot in.

“Chris Evans loves it here,” Joe said.

Is 'Avengers: Infinity War' coming to Cleveland?

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ may shoot in Cleveland

Georgia’s large tax incentive is pulling more and more films to the state, the Russos said, including all but two of Marvel’s upcoming slate of films. Joe mentioned one upcoming film doubling Atlanta for Cleveland.

But, Joe added, The Avengers: Infinity War has Cleveland on its short list for location work.

“It’s easy to shoot a film here,” Anthony Russo said. “The climate is right. There’s a variety of looks in the city. Parts of Cleveland are like Manhattan, you have the country nearby, distinctive architecture and the waterfront. And we were able to shut down a highway for two weeks.”

If Infinity War comes to Cleveland, it would only be for location work, however. The bulk of the film would be shot in L.A. or, possibly, Georgia.

Let's build a movie sound stage where this abandoned roller coaster now stands.

Sound stages needed to boost film infrastructure

To change that, the region needs production ready sound stages. Schwarz is actively trying to get those built. 

“If we get those built, we could potentially bring $600 million into the economy a year,” he said. That’s compared to $400 million over the last six years. “Then we can start to talk about the thousands of jobs we would create, too.”

One possible location for those sound stages is the abandoned Geauga Lake amusement park property, Schwarz said. 

In the meantime, two films will shoot in Northeast Ohio prior to the arrival of the Republican National Convention in the summer. One of those films, which Schwarz and the Russos wouldn’t name, is a big budget production.

“And that one is from a repeat customer,” Joe Russo said.

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