SARASOTA, FL (WFLA) — The movie premiere was packed. Ladies in Lakewood Ranch lined up to see Magic Mike XXL Tuesday night, all 246 of them. But, this was no ordinary movie night.
This was a ladies’ night of epic proportions, the ultimate girls’ night out where women were dressed to the nines and ready for an eyeful of what they call “man-candy.” The mood was more like a bachelorette party with the jovial moviegoers chatting, cheering and chanting for their favorite stars in the new, seemingly wildly-popular movie, “Magic Mike XXL,” a sequel to the original movie, based on male strippers in Tampa Bay.
Since the first film premiered, it has enjoyed a cult-like following after its release in June 2012, with many Florida fans thrilled about Bay area ties. However, unlike the original, the sequel, XXL, was not filmed in Tampa Bay. And, although it stars the female-favorite, A-list, former Tampa resident, Channing Tatum, the movie did not shoot scenes here. The question is, why?
The answer is not only frustrating and disheartening to those who hear it, but it also leaves residents scratching their heads. For the past three years, according to the Pinellas Film Commission, the Bay area has not provided tax incentives to filmmakers. Tony Armer, the film commissioner, calls the decision by lawmakers not to pass a bill offering incentives, “disappointing.”
“You do the best you can, and you have to move on. But this is costing the Bay area money. We are trying our best to change things,” Armer told 8 On Your Side.
It’s so serious, says Armer, that currently a major A-list director and A-list actor want to film a movie in St. Petersburg, all about St. Petersburg. However, they are choosing not to do it. Sources say it’s all about the money. Instead, a movie will, in fact, be made about St. Petersburg starring famous A-listers, but the St. Pete-setting will be fake, phony, created in another place.
So who’s raking in the dough when it comes to moviemaking? And why isn’t it Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater? A neighboring state is making the cash when it comes to feature films. Armer grinned and revealed the answer, “Our neighbor to the north.”
Georgia offers incredible tax breaks to directors, according to the film commissioner. “Georgia is currently kicking butt all over the country, and we have to work that much harder to get filmmakers to come here,” Armer said. He added, “We can offer small local incentives, but nothing like the larger, more attractive tax incentives being offered by other states. We need to work on it, and that’s our goal. That’s what we’re trying to do.”