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Phyllis Kahn and Dean Urdahl want Minnesota to invest in the movie business

Rep. Phyllis Kahn advocates for Minnesota ownership in motion pictures, in front of AMMP co-founders Ralph Winter, Robert Schwartz, Denise Gardner, with Rep. Dean Urdahl at right.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn advocates for Minnesota ownership in motion pictures, in front of AMMP co-founders Ralph Winter, Robert Schwartz, Denise Gardner, with Rep. Dean Urdahl at right.
Paul Battaglia

In 1995, Hollywood shot nine feature films in Minnesota, spending $128 million on in-state production costs. By 2007, that number had dropped to a single film, and $7 million.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) and Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Action Township), announced their plans to try to bring some of the movie money back.

But they're not just interested in the windfall of production spending. They want Minnesota to invest in movies directly, and when the films do well, to get a cut of the profits.

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Minnesota doesn't have piles of extra money around to spend breaking into the movie business (though the budget forecast is improving), but Kahn and Urdahl's plan offers a funding solution: the half-billion dollar pot of Legacy money.

To court Hollywood and develop the initiative, the two representatives have teamed up with the newly formed Association of Minnesota Motion Pictures, a group of film industry executives with Minnesota ties. The four main players are Robert Schwartz, Ralph Winter, Denise Gardner, and Jane Minton.

Movies flop, of course; they're not inherently safe investments. To guard against risky bets, the AMMP envisions some guidelines to regulate which projects could qualify for state dollars. The group would seek to negotiate multiple-movie deals with studios, guarantee a theatrical release for any movie receiving state funds, and focus mainly on mid-size pictures with budgets of $20 million or less.

Any profits would go right back into the Legacy Arts and Culture fund.

Kahn currently serves as chair of the Legacy Division, which allocates a portion of sales tax revenue to environmental and culture projects across the state. Urdahl held the same position during the 2011-2012 biennium.


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