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Stars Join Schumer To Back Big Tax Deduction For Broadway Shows

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Sen. Charles Schumer, Bryan Cranston

Sen. Charles Schumer (left) and Bryan Cranston discuss a plan that would allow for major tax deductions for Broadway theater. (Credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Broadway theater – and live commercial theater around the country – would get a huge financial boost under a change in the federal tax code proposed by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

At a news conference Monday, Schumer was joined by an array of Broadway actors – including Neil Patrick Harris, Tyne Daly, and Bryan Cranston.

His proposal, recently passed by the Senate Finance Committee, would allow 100 percent of any live theater investment to be deducted up to $15 million per production — whether the eventual show is a hit or a flop. Such a benefit is currently being granted to film and TV projects.

Schumer said the proposal would be good for the New York City economy as a whole.

“When you ask somebody from Denver, or from Tokyo, or from Johannesburg why they want to come to New York, they’ll say, ‘I want to go to Broadway,’ and so the better Broadway does, the better New York does; the better it is for jobs and gainful employment,” he said.

Schumer said the change would create “thousands and thousands” more jobs for actors and backstage workers, and produce more shows nationwide, giving a shot in the arm to the hotel, restaurant and taxi industries. He noted that other countries also grant live theater similar breaks.

But the bill would benefit more than just New York, Schumer said.

“This is not just a New York issue. More than half the people who attend Broadway productions attend them on the road, so this proposal we’re making will benefit many other cities and states in the country.”

In the 2008-2009 theater season — the most recent year for which data is available — some 40 touring Broadway shows performed in 192 venues to more than 13 million theater-goers, contributing almost $3.4 billion to the U.S. economy.

Schumer said as it currently stands, investors are shying away from New York theater due to a lack of tax benefits.

“There are others who decide it’s too much of an upfront risk to invest here, and they’re taking their money elsewhere to places that have more generous tax benefits than we do here for live theater.”

Schumer expects it to be voted on by the full Senate within a month and a half. The House could vote on it as early as this summer, he said.

The senator was joined at a Monday news conference by Harris, Cranston, Daly and producer Harvey Weinstein, as well as cast members from “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Newsies” and “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.”

Cranston, the “Breaking Bad” star currently playing President Lyndon B. Johnson in the play “All the Way,” said the tax change would enable theater producers to take more chances on “story-telling that may be on the fringe but just may be incredibly important.”

“Full houses is what we’re looking for,” Cranston said. “Adventurous, new storytelling and making sure that every theater in New York has a play. It’s good for commerce. It’s good for actors. It’s good for taxi drivers and hotel workers and restaurant workers. So it’s good all around.”

Weinstein, who has produced stage hits like “Billy Elliot: The Musical” and “August: Osage County,” noted that he’d recently taken the Peter Pan musical “Finding Neverland” to Great Britain to take advantage of that nation’s more attractive tax breaks. “If we had more support for Broadway, people like myself would be more adventurous,” he said.

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