Neil Patrick Harris, Bryan Cranston join Schumer to push for Broadway tax breaks

Bryan Cranston, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Neil Bryan Cranston, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Neil Patrick Harris during a news conference at Sardi's in Manhattan about tax benefits for Broadway on April 7, 2014. Photo Credit: John Roca

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A bevy of Broadway characters joined Sen. Chuck Schumer on Monday to lobby for legislation that would give tax breaks to investors in live theater productions.

Currently, film and television investors can deduct 100% of expenses, up to $15 million, during the first year of production, regardless of how much a project profits. The new legislation would apply the same tax breaks to live productions.

"We know that Broadway is part of our lives, it's part of our culture, it's part of our identity, part of the New York economy," Schumer said at the news conference, hosted at Sardi's on West 44th Street. "Broadway and live theater must continue to thrive in New York, but at the same time Broadway and other live theater productions face an uphill battle when it comes to getting investors to commit money to commercial stage productions."

Schumer said the legislation will "level the playing field."

Among the actors standing alongside the senator were "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston, who is currently portraying President Lyndon B. Johnson in "All the Way," and "How I Met Your Mother" actor Neil Patrick Harris, who is starring in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." Also showing their support were actress Tyne Daly and cast members from "Newsies," "Cinderella" and "The Phantom of the Opera."

"From an actor's standpoint, it's healthy for all of my friends to go to work and for all of the crew that lives here in New York," Cranston said. " . . . It also enables the producers to take those chances on storytelling that may be on the fringe, but just may be incredibly important."

Producer Harvey Weinstein said he would have premiered his production of "Finding Neverland" in New York had the tax deduction already been in place in the United States.

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Instead he took the show to Leicester, England, where he received tax incentives from the government.

"If we had more support for Broadway, people like myself would be more adventurous with our investments," Weinstein said.

The tax break would also benefit local and touring productions across the country.

According to Schumer, Broadway contributes 86,000 jobs and $11 billion to New York's economy.

Last year more than 7 million tourists attended shows, he said.

"They not only came to the theater, which supports thousands and thousands of people and good-paying jobs, but they ate at the restaurants, they stayed at the hotels, visited the museums," he said. "The better Broadway does, the better New York does," Schumer said.

The bill is expected to pass the Senate within about a month and the House by the summer, Schumer said.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state will give a separate 25% tax credit for live theater producers who do preproduction within New York State.

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