A woman walks along Albert Park lake in Melbourne on July 13, 2020, as five million people in Australia's second-biggest city began a new lockdown following a resurgence of coronavirus cases. (AFP/William West)
Australia is hoping its success in dealing with the coronavirus will lure more big budget Hollywood productions Down Under, with the government announcing incentives worth hundreds of millions of dollars Friday.
Promising "lights, camera, jobs," Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled a AU$400 million (US$280 million) boost in cash grants for film productions, a move he said had already piqued the interest of major studios.
"Jerry Bruckheimer's outfit and Ron Howard's outfit have already reached out to Australia on the basis of the announcement we have made today," Morrison said.
The plan aims to generate 8,000 jobs a year over seven years after Australia recorded its highest unemployment rate in two decades last month.
But Morrison pointed instead to the return of more than 200,000 jobs as a sign Australia was charting a path through the pandemic.
The announcement mirrors a similar push in New Zealand where the crew filming the "Avatar" sequel was granted special exemptions from virus rules to enter the country.
Australia has long chased Hollywood productions by offering tax breaks and in recent years hosted several blockbusters including several Marvel movies, a Pirates of the Caribbean film and currently Baz Lurhmann's Elvis biopic.
Back in March, Lurhmann's production highlighted dangers of the virus when Tom Hanks became the first major Hollywood star to contract COVID-19 while working on Australia's Gold Coast.
But the plan, made on Morrison's first visit to Queensland since the beginning of travel restrictions in the country, is the latest sign of a nation now emerging from virus shutdowns.
Most of Australia's regions are dealing well with the virus but an outbreak in the second-biggest city of Melbourne is threatening to derail the recovery, with the city recently returned to lockdown and its outbreak spreading to parts of Sydney.
"Australia's success in managing COVID has been well recognized around the world, and Australia is not the only country who is dealing with an outbreak like we are in Victoria," Morrison said.
"If Australia reopens, Australians are going back to work and that is where we want to be."
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