To hear politicians tell it, you'd almost think the real hero in attracting the new Batman film to Pittsburgh was a state tax credit. But notwithstanding remarks made at a press conference Thursday, public subsides are not the reason that portions of Dark Knight Rises will be shot here over the next month.
If anything, the credit may have been a bit of an empty (superhero's) suit.
During the presser, held at the Renaissance hotel Downtown, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Gov. Tom Corbett and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato spoke at length about the 25 percent film tax credit.
On a stage officials shared with director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, Ravenstahl praised the Corbett administration "for their commitment to the film industry through the extension of the film tax credit ... The commitment the governor made is clearly helping the Pittsburgh economy and part of the reason we're standing here today."
Onorato, who lost the governors' mansion to Corbett in November, also praised his former rival.
"I do want to also lend my congratulations to Gov. Corbett for committing to the film tax credit. It's been great the last couple years," Onorato said. "If anyone has any doubts about the multiplier effects of those tax credits, I think today" ends those doubts.
Corbet too talked up the film tax credit. Noting fears earlier this year that the credit might be cut, he said, "There was never a doubt in my mind that we need to have the film tax credit." There was even some talk yesterday about expanding it.
A case could be made that the credit has helped develop home-grown movie-making expertise, which current and future productions can benefit from. But for the record, Dark Knight Rises is not directly benefiting from the tax break at all.
To garner the credit, a film must spend 60 percent of its production budget inside the state. Given reports that the film will cost at least $250 million to make, that would amount to $150 million. But Pittsburgh is just one of a handful of locations being used in production, and Dark Knight Rises will be spending less than that.
When asked by City Paper about the tax credit, Dawn Keezer, executive director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, replied in an email that filmmakers "[d]id not apply [and] do not qualify" for it.
In fact, Keezer said, "no public money" at all is being used to lure the production. And Keezer, unlike the politicians beside her, barely mentioned the credit during yesterday's press conference. She spent most of her time talking up the film and the city's attributes.
Which, it appears, had far more to do with drawing the film here.
"I think the architecture of this city makes it a very beautiful city on a very impressive scale," Nolan told reporters. "The vibrancy and positive feeling that you get when you come here is incredibly impressive here and it's exciting to me to be filming the streets of downtown Pittsburgh for the next month."
Neither Nolan nor Bale gave away much in the way of plot -- though they confirmed the production is going to make it snow downtown and that there will be, as Bale says "fighting in the streets."
"We're very honored to be in your city," Nolan said.
Apparently so. The film, which will become part of a high-grossing franchise, will bring added exposure and revenue, without needing a taxpayer giveaway.
"I think we're really going to do some impressive and exciting things," Nolan added. "I'm confident that we're going to be able to leave the City of Pittsburgh liking us."
There's already reason to like the way they've arrived.