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‘Lone Ranger’ Rides Again

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The dust has settled, and it’s time to saddle up.

Johnny Depp’s long-awaited — and stalled — “The Lone Ranger” will ride into New Mexico for filming in 2012.

After a few false starts amid budget concerns by Disney, the classic TV remake was announced during an industry association event at Albuquerque Studios on Thursday that showcased the status of the New Mexico film industry.

NMedia, a statewide entertainment and digital industry association, sponsored the reception.

Keith Gardner, Gov. Susana Martinez’s chief of staff, attended on her behalf and said the governor wants the industry to flourish. She is satisfied with the incentive structure approved by the Legislature last session that put a $50 million cap on film rebates each year and would not support any more changes to the incentive program.

Film incentives still provide a 25 percent rebate to film companies for most direct, in-state expenditures.

“(Gov. Martinez’s) vision and goal for the state is to see long-term sustainable business in the state,” Gardner said. “With the last legislative session, it was negotiated that long-term business was able to sustain in the state.

“There’s not a desire to change or manipulate the incentives. It will not be introduced, and if anyone attempts to do so and something were to land on her desk, there will be a veto pen placed on it.”

Gardner said the state wants to make sure executives in Hollywood understand the state is open for film business.

“We are open and friendly for the film business, and we look forward to continuing that openness and friendliness in the future,” he said.

Nick Maniatis, director of the New Mexico Film Office, said Disney officials have agreed to shoot the majority of the film in state.

“I know there’s been a lull,” he said describing the film industry. “I’ve gone to L.A. and had long days of meetings, and they were all great.”

Maniatis read from a letter from a Disney executive saying, “The Walt Disney Studios will shoot the majority of the feature film in New Mexico. … Our past experiences of shooting in New Mexico have been extraordinary … thanks to the state’s superior infrastructure. We’re thrilled to be heading back to New Mexico.”

Maniatis said an official announcement will come in the next couple of weeks because locations haven’t been finalized.

Before “The Lone Ranger” was shut down in August, crews were busy building sets near Silver City and a casting call in Silver City was eventually scrapped.

Along with Depp as Tonto, Armie Hammer will play The Lone Ranger.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Depp and director Jerry Bruckheimer were able to cut the reported $260 million budget that Disney rejected to $215 million.

“Then we looked for the best break in tax incentives. We found that Louisiana gave us a better tax incentive than New Mexico — that was another $8 million,” Bruckheimer said. “We’re still shooting in New Mexico, and we might (also) go to Louisiana. We’re asking New Mexico to come closer to the Louisiana incentive.”

Because of the false start, the film is slated to be released May 31, 2013, which puts it in competition with another “Fast and Furious” movie and the retooled “Superman” movie, starring Henry Cavill.

Maniatis said his office has seen an uptick in films interested in coming to the state.

“The fruits of our labors will be paying off,” he said.

Maniatis mentioned that the films “The Last Stand,” “Jackie” and “Stars” are currently shooting in the state, and the TV pilot of “The Tin Star” for TNT just finished.

“We have three TV shows that we know of that will be filming here this winter,” he said.

Maniatis said he wants to pursue more digital media, gaming, postproduction and more TV opportunities for the state.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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