The number of movies and TV programs filmed in Jerusalem has increased by 400 percent in the past four years, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said Wednesday night at the annual Jerusalem Economic Forum.

The theme of the forum, which unites Jerusalem business leaders, focused this year on the ability of the cinema to improve Jerusalem’s economy.

“This is an amazing marketing tool because it is the intersection of culture and tourism,” Barkat said.

In 2008, just 30 movies and TV programs, or 5%, were filmed in Jerusalem. The city then started a NIS 30-million initiative to try to attract the film industry. Today, that figure is closer to 20%.

Barkat said he would focus on bringing international film crews to Jerusalem to take advantage of the city’s religious pull across the world.

Recently filmed movies in the city include the Oscar-nominated Footnotes, the Srugim series about religious singles in Jerusalem, Intimate Grammar, Arab Work and The Prime Minister’s Children.

“New York invests $800 million each year in bringing cinema [to film in the city] because they can see it helps in the long run,” said Barkat. He said Indian investors, in a recent meeting, told him everywhere Bollywood films a movie there is an immediate influx of hundreds of thousands of tourists.

Moti Hazan, the director of the Jerusalem Development Authority, cited the city’s film schools, including Sam Speigel and Ma’aleh, as creating the building blocks for a successful film industry. JDA would invest NIS 45m. a year in creating the infrastructure for the film industry, he said, including grants and tax breaks totaling NIS 1m. per movie and NIS 500,000 per television series.

Israeli actor Avi Nesher attended the event and threw his support behind the effort to bring more movies and TV programs to Jerusalem, saying the location of his films plays just as an important role in his movies as the actor.

“Through [movies] people can begin to love a city,” he said. “The same way we fell in love with New York, Paris or Berlin through movies, we can do even more so with Jerusalem.”

The annual Jerusalem Film Festival opened Thursday night and runs to July 14.

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