Lensing in L.A. takes dive in Oct.

Los Angeles County reported yesterday that location shooting fell to nearly 40% below projections during the month of October.

Following reports of record unemployment among Hollywood guild members, the sharp drop augurs a continuing sluggish season for local filming. The number of days of film production in this fiscal year–which began in July–has continued to plummet since a spurt of activity in August.

Officials from the city of Los Angeles also report a drop in filming activity , down more than 8% in September and possibly even lower in October. The city’s October figures have not yet been tallied.

The drop in local location shooting in Los Angeles city and county is nothing new, but initial signs for fiscal 1992 had looked as if a recovery might be in sight.

During the month of August, the second month of the new fiscal year, 391 production days had been logged with the county.

That number fell to 326 during September, and there were only 295 days logged in October, marking the lowest for that month in four years.

“What this means is that the economy attacked Hollywood when we weren’t looking,” said Marjo Bernay, of the L.A. County Filming Advisory Commission.

The drop-off in local filming activity has been attributed to a number of reasons, most notably that the major studios are continuing to put their feature projects on hold.

Location production days for feature films were up to 97 during August, but fell to 62 in October. Overall, county officials had predicted that income from film permits would be about $ 172,000 for the first four months of fiscal 1992, but the actual income was only $ 107,555, a 38% drop.

In the city of L.A., there were 336 permits issued during September, down from 367 issued in September 1991.

Not surprisingly, those figures are expected to get even worse in the next month or two as Hollywood goes into its annual slowdown for the holidays.

Additionally, officials are predicting that the recent shuffling of top exex at Paramount and 20th Century Fox will result in even fewer production days initially, as the new appointees begin the process of shelving upcoming projects and rewriting production slates.

And while the decline is hitting feature filming, it’s also being felt in television production.

There were 107 location production days for television during August, but that number fell to 74 in September and to 49 in October.

Ironically, the number of permits for TV stayed about the same from September to October– there were 33 permits issued in September, 35 issued in October –but the number of actual working days continued to fall.

Industry sources cite two reasons. A number of new one-hour dramas, which constitute the majority of location filming, are being shot out of California.

Secondly, networks are opting for the less-expensive reality and news programs instead of one-hour dramas, a shift that has hit the local Guilds hard.

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