Buoyed by a strong fourth quarter, Hollywood’s location production rose 1.7% last year — despite sharp declines in the mainstay areas of TV dramas (down 20%) and reality (down 11.8%) due to the lure of production incentives outside California.
“We know that part of the decline in our TV drama figures stems from producers’ desire to cut costs by filming more on studio backlots and soundstages,” noted FilmL.A. president Paul Audley. “Unfortunately, last year we also saw a record number of new TV drama series shot out of state, resulting in negative economic consequences.”
California’s four-year Film and Television Tax Credit — far smaller than those of rival states — accounted for a total of 276 permitted days or 1.6% of the TV total. Show receiving the credit included “Body of Proof,” “Bunheads,” “Five More,” “Franklin and Bash,” “Justified,” “Major Crimes,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Rizzoli and Isles,” “Shadow on the Mesa,” “Switched at Birth,” “Teen Wolf” and “Thanksgiving House.”
Total offlot production in Los Angeles totalled 46,254 permitted days — or 863 short of the regions’s high in 2008, according to figures released Tuesday by the FilmL.A. permitting agency.
Overall TV production for offlot shooting in 2012 slid 3.4% from the previous year to 16,762 days from 17.349 — and that decline would have been much more severe except for an impressive 36.4% jump in sitcom shooting to 2,048 days. The 2012 figure came in well below the record 19,100 days for TV shoots in 2008, with dramas falling to 3,533 days and reality to 6,358.
The year-end report does not mark the first time FilmL.A. has sounded the alarm about Hollywood losing TV production. Last June, FilmL.A.’s annual Television Pilot Production report projected that the major broadcast networks’ 2012-13 season would consist of 47 Los Angeles-based shows (18 dramas, 29 comedies) and 24 shows (23 dramas and a single comedy) filmed outside Hollywood — marking the first time in the history of the study, which dates back to 2004, that less than half of the primetime dramas have been shot in L.A.
The pilot study showed that pilots shot in Los Angeles amounted to just 29% of the total, even though comedy remained king in L.A., with 91% of all sitcoms shot in Hollywood.
The year-end report showed that feature film shoots edged up 3.7% last year to 5,892 days thanks to a 32.5% hike in the fourth quarter following a 21% plunge in the third quarter. Location shooting on features remains far below the 2008 level of 7,096 — and not even within hailing distance of the 1997 record of 13,284 days.
State-qualified feature projects shot in Los Angeles last year amounted to 347 days and included Warner Bros.’ “Gangster Squad,” which opens Friday, along with indie projects “10 Things I Hate About Life,” “Baggage Claim,” “The Bling Ring,” “Dark Skies,” “The Hive,” “Jesus in Cowboy Boots,” “Look of Love” and “Plush.” Other projects with location shoots in L.A. included Jason Bateman’s directorial debut “Bad Words” and J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek.”
The report was issued three months after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation extending the state’s production tax credit program for two years at $100 million annually with a 25% maximum credit. Both figures are dwarfed by what other programs provide, with demand for the credits far exceeding supply in the Golden State.
Audley took the opportunity Tuesday to call for more efforts to put the brakes on runaway production.
“Last year saw our industry rocked by dramatic changes in the local production landscape,” he said. “If we seek a more secure future for filming in Los Angeles, we must continue to innovate and expand upon the programs proven to attract new projects to California.”
Production in the commercials category increased 14.1% to a record high of 8,078 days, with Web-based commercials contributing 641 days — far above the 101 days in 2008, the first year such shoots were tracked.
In a separate report issued Tuesday, the California Film Commission reported a decline of 21% in permits in 2012 for state-owned land in Los Angeles County for a total of 996 filming days. Features slid 61% to 81 days; TV fell to 73, down 60%; and commercials rose 11% to 221.
The commission said the decline was due partly to the unavailability of Nelles Correctional Facility in Whittier, which accounted for 176 filming days in 2011, and Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, which accounted for 19 filming days.
Statewide, the California Film Commission issued permits for a total of 2,987 filming days in 2012 for a drop of 5%.
For pics, specific locations in Los Angeles County included “Gangster Squad” in downtown L.A.; “This Is 40” in Malibu (a tax credit project); “The Hive” for several freeways; and “Take 2” in Malibu and the DMV office in Inglewood. TV shoots on state land included “Body of Proof,” “Southland,” “90210,” “The Mentalist” and “Real Housewives of Orange County” at the DMV office in Van Nuys.