‘Batman,’ Spielberg films land tax breaks to shoot in New Jersey

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Director Steven Spielberg smiles for the camera at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, D.C.

New Jersey, whose $11 billion tax-break program is under investigation by the state attorney general, approved incentives for major films by two of Hollywood’s biggest studios.

The films — “Joker,” part of Warner Brothers Pictures Inc.’s “Batman” franchise, and a Steven Spielberg-directed “West Side Story” adaptation for Twentieth Century Fox Inc. — could qualify for credits of as much as 35 percent, with other discounts for hiring women and minorities. Governor Phil Murphy has targeted film and digital media as high-growth industries that can provide good-paying jobs.

New Jersey was the nascent film industry’s capital in the early 20th century, and after major production moved West, the state remained a low-priced alternative to New York City sets. In 2016, then-Governor Chris Christie didn’t renew an expired film tax-credit program, saying he was skeptical of the economic benefits.

Murphy, whose administration is examining sloppy oversight of a state tax-incentives program expanded by Christie, signed a bill reviving film credits in July.