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Florida may be the setting for a lot of movies. Why they're not filmed here much anymore

 The pool house of the “Casa de Muchas Flores” is where scenes for the 1985 movie, Cocoon, was filmed.
Patrick Degnan, YourDigitalPro
The pool house of the “Casa de Muchas Flores” is where scenes for the 1985 movie, Cocoon, was filmed.

Florida was once considered the Hollywood of the south. Now, movies set in Tampa are actually being filmed in Georgia and other states.

The remake of the cult classic "Roadhouse" starring Jake Gyllenhall is set in the Florida Keys. It was filmed almost entirely in the Dominican Republic.

In the immortal words from the film "Apollo 13:" "Houston we have a problem."

Parts of that movie were actually shot in Florida, but that figures. Where else are you going to shoot a film about a space launch to the moon?

A bigger surprise is that Pasco County became home to "Edward Scissorhands."

"Cocoon" was predictably shot in St. Petersburg ...

"Magic Mike" took it all off in Tampa ...

And, they're still talking about the days when Elvis Presley shot "Follow that Dream" in Crystal River and other points along the Nature Coast.

But Tyler Martinolich, executive director of Film Tampa Bay, said the dream is fading fast.

"In 2015, which was the last year we had a statewide incentive, we were actually the third largest filming destination in the United States," Martinolich said. "Since then, we've precipitously fallen, and now we're not even top 20."

Martinolich said there has been a big drop in Florida filming. While other states started getting into paying movie companies incentives to shoot there through tax breaks, Florida pulled out of the incentive game.

Politics The fate of Florida's film and entertainment office is debated Jim Turner - News Service of Florida

"So that started our problem, said Martinolich. "And then you had our adjacent state, Georgia, really stepped into the gap. They created one of the best incentive programs in the United States; they stole a lot of productions from elsewhere. And now they are the reigning champion as far as film production goes in the U.S."

And that has led to the strange Hollywood phenomenon in which a film set in Tampa is actually filmed in Georgia. And we're talking about locations you would think couldn't be created anyplace else.

Ybor City was the setting for the 2016 Ben Affleck film "Live By Night".

It was shot in Georgia.

"One of the most iconic and oldest cities, outside of St. Augustine, in the state of Florida, it has a rich history," Martinolich said. And to think that someone could recreate it and more importantly, recreate it cheaper by going to Georgia is really flabbergasting. But that actually happened,"

The economics behind incentives

In eliminating incentives, state officials have said it's just about return on investment and that the incentive program was only returning cents on every dollar spent.

Martinolich does agree that it's the economics that led to state opposition to incentives — and not that Hollywood is avoiding Florida over the culture wars here.

"I would point to Louisiana, point to Oklahoma, point to Georgia, point to Texas. They're equally as conservative in some cases, more conservative, I think, than Florida is in many ways. And yet film production is absolutely booming there," he explained.

Martinolich is convinced state government isn't anti-film, just anti-incentives. And, he think that's short-sighted.

"If we're not putting ourselves out there in the big screen, we're losing potential tourists to come into the state," said Martinolich. "In fact, it was couple years ago now but Visit Florida did a study that showed one in four tourists coming into Florida made that decision entirely based on a movie or TV series they saw that showed off Florida in some way or form."

And then, there's the local pride factor.

"People want to see the place they live, work and play on the big screen. It matters to them. When they can look and say, 'Oh, I know that location, or that's my friend's house or I knew someone that worked on it,' " Martinolich said.

And you still can do that watching something like a 2023 Netflix movie starring Emily Blunt and Chris Evans about crooked prescription drug makers, "Pain Hustlers."

"Pain Hustlers shot all their exteriors here in Tampa. I think it really showcases just how beautiful our waterfront is and how unique it is," Martinolich said. "They've got helicopter shots all the way along Bayshore."

But, again, standing in for Tampa for the principal shooting of Pain Hustlers?

"Georgia, of course," answered Martinolich.

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Craig Kopp