Thailand to up rebates to lure more foreign filmmakers

One of the most recent films shot in Thailand was 'No Escape', an action film starring Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan and Lake Well shot partially in Chiang Mai at the end of 2013. (The Weinstein Co / Bold Films publicity photo)

Thailand is hoping to become the setting for more motion pictures by paying larger rebates to international filmmakers.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports Ministry plans to seek cabinet approval to give back up to 20% of money spent in Thailand by overseas movie producers. Known as "incentives," the rebates are a key tool used by countries around the world to land movie shoots.

Under the proposal, foreign filmmakers who spend at least 100-200 million baht in Thailand would get 15-20% of their spend returned, Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said on Tuesday.

The idea was floated after Thailand lost out to Britain for a chance to be a shooting location for latest episode in the Star Wars movie franchise. The United Kingdom offered more in incentives, Thai media reported on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha regretted losing out on the opportunity, said Mrs Kobkarn.

Incentives are not only a way for countries to generate income, but positive exposure as well. Mexico returned US$10 million to makers of the latest James Bond movie, but required producers to cast Mexican stars and depict the country in a positive light.

Khao Tapu in Phangnga is widely known as James Bond Island. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Ms Kobkarn said the ministry will request 300 million baht a year from the cabinet for the Department of Tourism to disburse in filmmaking incentives.

The Thailand Film Office earlier reported that Indian filmmakers shot the most movies in the kingdom in 2013, with Bangkok being the most frequent set location.

Out of 717 foreign films shot here, 150 were from India, 140 from Japan, 38 from Hong Kong, 34 from the US and 29 each from China and South Korea.

One of the most recent films shot in Thailand was No Escape, an action film starring Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan and Lake Well shot partially in Chiang Mai at the end of 2013.

Despite rumours the film - which depicts a coup in a Southeast Asian country - was banned by Thailand military government, the Culture Ministry on Monday confirmed it was approved by censors on July 28 and will open as planned on Sept 10.