The strong support for a renewed Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement for the Beacon Cinema is encouraging. The cinema is that important to downtown Pittsfield.
Mayor Linda Tyer has proposed a five-year extension of a real estate and personal property tax reduction for the cinema through 2021. This would continue a similar TIF agreement from 2008 due to expire next month. The Finance Committee has recommended the City Council approve the tax extension, with Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi observing that forgiving roughly $72,000 in taxes over five years is a "wise investment." (Eagle, May 17.)
A number of residents and officials, among them Berkshire Chamber of Commerce CEO Jonathan Butler and Berkshire Theatre Group CEO and Artistic Director Kate Maguire, came before the City Council and Finance Committee to attest to the considerable value of the movie theater. The theater has succeeded in bringing people downtown, to the benefit of neighboring restaurants and businesses. Owner Richard Stanley has exceeded the requirements of the original TIF, according to the mayor, by investing more than $20 million in the project and providing 31 full-time-equivalent jobs.
Mr. Stanley acknowledged to the Finance Committee that Beacon attendance slumped after the Regal theater in the Berkshire Mall was upgraded with stadium-style seating. Mr. Stanley told the Finance Committee that he plans a similar upgrade of Beacon seating. That's the nature of competition, but it is important to consider that money spent at a Regal chain cinema is almost entirely heading back to corporate headquarters. Money spent at the Beacon — or the Triplex in Great Barrington, Images Cinema in Williamstown, or at the Berkshire Museum's Little Cinema — is remaining at home.