The Highlight Reel: Tennessee’s Film Industry Packs Economic Punch


Posted on: Wednesday - Jan 4, 2017

Whether it’s motion pictures produced for the big screen or television series made to enjoy from the comfort of your living room, Tennessee’s film industry is certainly staking its claim as a national leader.  

Film production has casted Tennessee on to the international stage, exposing audiences from around the world to Tennesseans’ artistic creativity – from Music City’s iconic Bluebird Café, honky-tonks and country music scene in the television show “Nashville” to Memphis’ role in the birth of rock ‘n roll with CMT’s upcoming “Sun Records” based on the Tony-award winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet.” 

In the process, the production industry plays an integral role in Tennessee’s economy, employing thousands of residents with wages well above the state average and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact. 

A new report from the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee (CERT), the research arm of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, analyzed the recent impact of the film and production industry on Tennessee’s economy.

Tennessee currently ranks No. 7 among all states in the nation for employment in the film production industry. Since 2010, employment in Tennessee’s film industry has grown 8 percent. Nearly 4,400 Tennesseans work in the film industry, earning an average of nearly $59,800 annually before benefits, a figure that is 21.3 percent higher than the average wage of all industries in Tennessee.

Recognizing the value in attracting these types of high quality and high paying jobs, the Tennessee Entertainment Commission (TEC) has incentivized 50 production projects across Tennessee from 2007 to 2015.

CERT estimates that such projects have generated $228.3 million in new income for Tennessee workers. These production projects have created more than 4,000 new full-time jobs and generated nearly $371 million in economic output for the state over an eight-year span, CERT finds in the report. Additionally, TEC has supported hundreds more production projects with non-financial assistance. These production activities have created nearly 600 jobs and almost $35 million in new incomes for Tennesseans. 

The impact of the film industry is twofold. There’s the immediate benefit from filming in Tennessee. CERT finds that projects TEC has incentivized have directly created just over 2,000 jobs, which has resulted in the creation of another 2,000 indirect jobs. 

But just as importantly, there’s the tourism spending that comes from new visitors attracted to visit places like Nashville, Memphis and others. 

“Nashville,” which kicks off its fifth season tomorrow, airs in more than 80 countries around the world. In 2014, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation surveyed overnight visitors to Nashville and found nearly one out of every five tourists came to visit Nashville because of the show, formerly on ABC and now airing on CMT. Not only do visitors attracted to Music City because of the show stay longer, they also spend more money while they are in Nashville – on average $44 more per person per day than those tourists who have not seen “Nashville.”

CERT estimates that tourism resulting from viewership of “Nashville” had an estimated $486.7 million in visitor spending and $34 million in state sales tax revenue over the three years following the show’s premier.

The growth in Tennessee’s motion picture and production industry also helps generate economic activity in other sectors of the economy – especially the heartbeat of Tennessee’s creative economy: the music industry.

See below for CERT’s full look at the impact of TEC’s work to encourage the growth on the motion picture production industry in Tennessee. 

Download Film Economic Impact