L.A. laments prod’n lag

Shooting during February-May pilot season fell 23%

A correction was made to this article on June 4, 2006.

Hollywood has lost nearly a quarter of its TV pilot production since last year, lured away by lucrative incentives offered by Canada and cities such as Gotham.

Permitting agency FilmL.A. said in a report released today that production during the February-May pilot season declined 23% to 81 projects from 105 in 2005. And the local share of pilots fell to 67% from 85%.

FilmL.A. prexy Steve McDonald issued a warning that the situation will continue to deteriorate without some kind of incentive program in California. He estimated the loss of production resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs and as much as $70 million in production spending in Los Angeles.

“Aggressive incentives from other jurisdictions have succeeded in luring a third of the season’s pilots away from L.A.,” he added. “Without a significant response, we’re not likely to retain a majority share for much longer.”

According to the report, New York City’s pilot production rose to 11 projects from seven in 2005 while Canadian provinces saw the number rise to 11 from five.

Pilots shot in New York include Touchstone’s “Betty the Ugly” and “Six Degrees,” both for ABC. NBC Universal shot “3 lbs.” in Los Angeles but will shoot the series in New York; Pilots shot in Los Angeles that will stay in Los Angeles include Touchtone’s “Brothers and Sisters” for ABC and Warner Bros.’ “Studio 60” for NBC.

Washington, D.C., was home to three pilots and Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas each drew two. Massachusetts, Illinois, Tennessee, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Utah each hosted a single pilot.

The erosion of pilot production comes after several years of explosive growth in Hollywood’s TV production, thanks to gains in cable programs and reality TV. FilmL.A. stats show off-lot TV production with gains of 18.4% in 2002, 11.9% in 2003 and 26.8% in 2004 before slowing to 2.6% last year.

MacDonald noted that a similar phenomenon took place during the 1990s, when feature production began departing from Hollywood due to incentives from Canada and other foreign markets. Off-lot permitted feature activity fell steadily from 14,000 annual production days in 1996 to the current level of about 9,000 days per year.

FilmL.A. also said the total number of pilots picked up declined from 46 new and mid-season shows in 2005 to 39 this year, with 30 slated for the fall and nine to debut mid-season. Of those, 26 will be produced in Los Angeles (13 one-hour, 13 half-hour), eight in New York (six one-hour, two half-hour), two one-hour shows in Canada and one one-hour show each in Texas, Rhode Island and a still undisclosed location; one is moving from New York to Toronto, and another is moving from Los Angeles to New York.

The mid-season replacements include five half-hour shows in Los Angeles, one one-hour show each in New York and Canada, and two at locations not yet announced.

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