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Lights, camera, action! Revival planned for Tucson’s movie industry

Rio Nuevo offers incentives to draw TV productions
Posted at 7:18 PM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 22:18:10-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A comeback story’s a great plot for a movie. Now the Rio Nuevo downtown development district’s working towards a comeback for Tucson’s movie industry.

Trail Dust Town was built as a TV and movie set back when cowboy shows ruled the airwaves. It’s a reminder of the days when TV and movie production were big business in the Tucson area. Now, the downtown development agency and a tourism development agency are working to bring that sort of business back.

Tucson was ideal for a long string of westerns but other types of films were made here too. Lately, a lot of that film work’s moved to places like New Mexico even if the story’s about Arizona.

New Mexico tax incentives are a big part of the reason. Now the Rio Nuevo downtown development district says a TV show about food is planning to shoot in Tucson, and a regular TV series is talking about basing a show in Tucson too.

Arizona does not offer tax incentives like New Mexico does, but Rio Nuevo is able to offer cash incentives. Visit Tucson, which works to encourage tourism is also working to attract TV and film production.

Rio Nuevo Chairman Fletcher McCusker says TV companies are seeing Tucson as a good place to produce their shows---and Rio Nuevo incentives to seal the deal can bring a payback that flows more money into the local economy.

“Obviously, our focus is on downtown, and we want you to support that economically, you have to demonstrate to us that you're going to use our hotels or feature our restaurants, or shoot it downtown. In order for us to provide funds.”

Rio Nuevo set aside a half million dollars to help recruit more TV and film production.

Matt Welch is an actor who’s been in a lot of the movies made in Tucson. He’s working to create a museum dedicated to Tucson’s movie making past and future.

Welch says Hollywood’s a small world and when one company decides Tucson’s a good place to work, others will bring their business here.

“If we have some new things to show producers and directors, what Tucson and Southern Arizona are capable of, it's going to generate that interest in anything, whether it be a commercial or a television show, or even just a photoshoot for advertising. It generates interest in this region.”

Rio Nuevo’s chairman hopes a track record of successful productions in Tucson could convince state lawmakers to offer film companies state tax incentives that’ll bring Arizona film business that’s going to other states.