Thailand Doubles Cash Rebate Cap To $4.4M, Considers Increase To 30%; Local Studios Set To Expand As More Productions Shoot On Stages

Thailand’s government has doubled the cap on its production incentive to THB150M ($4.4M), while an increase in the cash rebate it offers to 30% is also being considered.

The move comes as major projects including HBO’s The Sympathizer are shooting in Thailand, while further projects such as the third season of The White Lotus are reportedly heading to the country later this year. 

Thailand currently offers a cash rebate of 15% to foreign productions shooting in the country, with a further 5% available based on a cultural test. The maximum rebate per production is capped at THB75M ($2.2M).

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In February, Thailand’s cabinet approved an increase in the incentive to 30% of qualifying spend, which is currently being considered by the treasury department. The doubling of the cap to $4.4M has been confirmed. Local industry sources say the final decision about the increase of the rebate is likely to be announced at the Cannes film festival in May. 

Last year, Thailand’s government also agreed to waive the personal income tax that it collects from foreign talent shooting in the country for a period of five years. 

Meanwhile, local studios and facilities are exploring expansion plans in anticipation of bigger productions heading to Thailand following the changes to the incentives, while local property developers are looking at building new studios. 

Speaking at a workshop organized by the Motion Picture Association  (MPA), Bangkok-based facility Studio Park said it’s planning to expand its existing five sound stages with additional, larger stages, and is also exploring the addition of a Virtual Production (VP) volume.

Studio Park acting director Vara Vilaivan described how Netflix’s Thai Cave Rescue constructed 13 sections of cave on its stages, the biggest of which is 2,400 square meters, and also built a shallow water tank. “We already have tanks, but they were too deep. This is when we discovered that our stages are not as big as we previously thought and we have room for improvement,” Vilaivan said. 

Kulthep Narula, COO of production services company Benetone Films, explained that Thailand has always been known for location shooting, in particular beaches, jungle and cityscapes, but more inbound productions are requiring sound stages, so the industry is looking to upgrade its facilities, VP and other production technology infrastructure. While Bangkok already has more than 50 stages, most are relatively small and used for local TV and commercials work. 

“Thailand is ready for the next step, which is to have bigger and better facilities for bigger productions, and that’s what we need to get ready for,” Narula said. “We’re asking ourselves; can we handle a Mission Impossible or a John Wick? Probably not yet, but with some work and forward thinking it’s possible.”

Valaivan said Studio Park’s stages are booked out for the rest of the year and other Bangkok facilities are also busy. Studio Park has also been used by productions including Shantaram and Disney’s Ms Marvel

The Thailand Film Office (TFO) recently announced that Thailand hosted 348 film and TV productions in 2022, with combined budgets reaching $182M, the highest level ever. Other productions to shoot in the country over the past few years include The Meg 2: The Trench, Thirteen Lives, The Greatest Beer Run Ever, Extraction and Fistful Of Vengeance.

HBO and A24’s The Sympathizer is currently shooting at multiple locations across the country. At the MPA workshop, Executive Producer Niv Fichman said the production had considered shooting in Vietnam, where the series and the source novel of the same name are partly set, but opted for Thailand due to the ease of filming, experienced crews and government support. 

“We made a full assessment, and the incentives help for sure, but we were also impressed by the infrastructure. We knew we could get the crews and that our production services company, Indochina Productions, could provide HBO with the facilities they required,” Fichman said. “There are challenges, because Thailand doesn’t look like Vietnam and we have a big responsibility towards authenticity, so we have Vietnamese cast and numerous Vietnamese consultants on the set.” 

Fichman also noted the irony that the lead character of the source novel, written by Viet Thanh Nguyen, is a Vietnamese refugee in the 1970s who gets a side gig working as a consultant on a big American movie about the Vietnam War shooting in the Philippines. No prizes for guessing which movie the book is referencing. 

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