Now that Netflix has suspended the production of House of Cards in Maryland, local businesses are starting to feel the pinch from lost and cancelled orders.
Can a single television show prop up a local economy? No, but if any show came close, it would certainly be House of Cards.
Following revelations that actor Kevin Spacey drunkenly propositioned an underage boy at a party years ago, Netflix announced that the filming of House of Cards season six would be suspended until the production company can proceed in a way that everyone involved in the show feels safe. Since then, more victims have come forward alleging that the House of Cards star sexually assaulted them. At least one victim was a minor at the time of the alleged incident.
Kevin Spacey has since checked himself in a sex rehab facility. However, Netflix has also announced that the company “will not be involved with any production of ‘House of Cards’ that includes Kevin Spacey.” So, the final season of the show remains suspended until they figure out a way to move forward without their star character. In the mean time, no filming means no Cards-money being pumped into Maryland’s local economies, providing Marylanders on both sides of the film tax rebate debate an opportunity to see what life is like without the hit Netflix series.
In just the first four seasons, the show was estimated to have impacted Maryland’s economy to the tune of $460 million. Today, a single season of the show contributes around $140 million to the local and state economies. Every season, the show employs more than 2,100 Marylanders and it is reported that a single production season will buy or rent goods and services from at least 2,200 small-to-medium Maryland businesses.
This comes at a cost, however. House of Cards, like other popular shows, recognized its local economic impact and has used that as leverage to negotiate state tax breaks. This is standard in the film and television industries and at least 40 states now offer tax incentives for film productions. The logic is that if a state like Maryland doesn’t make the tax environment competitive enough, then productions like House of Cards or Veep will move to a state that offers those tax rebates. Even with reductions in state revenue from taxes, the stimulus to the local economy is undeniable. And unlike major manufacturers which invest heavily into real estate and infrastructure, film productions are deliberately transient.
This arrangement in Maryland has always been hotly debated. Not everyone believes that the lost tax revenue was worth the economic stimulus. Well, now that House of Cards production is indefinitely suspended and the show has, ultimately, been cancelled after its sixth season, Maryland will now experience a pretty significant loss. Everything from local caterers to dry cleaners, to florists and contractors will soon return to a life without fulfilling House of Cards orders. For those small to medium businesses that grew alongside House of Cards, these losses could be devastating. House of Cards certainly isn’t the only production in Maryland, but it certainly is currently the most iconic one.
The most immediate threat comes from the show’s suspension. While it is unclear how long it will last — Netflix announced it would be “indefinite” — it does put many of the show’s vendor orders on hold. While these orders could eventually be filled if production resumes without Spacey in the lead role, it serves as little solace, for example, to the sandwich shop that had already ordered the bread to make sandwich platters that will go likely go bad before production resumes. Yes, that is an oddly specific example, but it shows how the sudden unexpected loss of show revenue can throw a wrench into a small business’ projections.
One silver lining is that there are rumors that Netflix is looking to launch spin-off House of Cards series. While these rumors were circulating before the Kevin Spacey revelations and show’s suspension, it is certainly more likely now that the main series is likely over. If Netflix does make an order for episodes of a House of Cards spinoff series, it could provide vital revenue for local economies unsure of what life after House of Cards would look like…