TV activity up 19%, reversing last year's decline; features gain 25.5%

Gains in the mainstay TV and feature film categories have fueled a 17.6% jump in first-quarter location shooting in Los Angeles.

The first-quarter gains, announced Wednesday by the FilmL.A. permitting agency, represented a sharp reversal of 2012′s 3.4%  decline in TV when dramas plunged 20% and reality fell 11.8%.

“We’re viewing the latest numbers with caution and optimism,” said FilmL.A. president Paul Audley. “One quarter can’t undo all the troubling declines we’ve experienced, but we’re certainly encouraged to see things moving in an upward direction.”

The first quarter totalled 13,361 permitted days — including a 19% gain to 5,091 days in TV and a 25.5% hike in features to 1,279 days. Commercials edged down 14 days, or 0.6%, to 2,30. Other categories jumped 25% to 4,696, thanks mostly to a 52% hike in still photography to 2,561 days.

“The first quarter is typically a slower season for feature film production in Los Angeles, so the early increase could bode well for the rest of 2013,” the agency noted.

Films that received tax credits under the four-year-old California Film & Television Tax Credit Program accounted for 171 days, or 13.4% of the total. Those titles shot in Los Angeles included “10 Things I Hate About Life,” “Dark Skies” and “Walk of Shame.”

TV activity soared in a quartet of categories — pilots, up 37.3% to 460 days; sitcoms, up 36.9% to 608; web-based TV, up 35.4% to 539; and drama, up 22.4% to 1,260 PPD. TV reality, the largest single category, increased by 2.1% to 1,591 days.

FilmL.A. noted that the 2013 first quarter was the strongest for TV since 2007.

The Los Angeles-based TV projects that qualified for the state tax credit included “Body of Proof,” “Bunheads,” “Franklin and Bash,” “Justified,” “Major Crimes,” “Rizzoli and Isles” and “Teen Wolf.” Those shows generated 176 days, or 3.5% of the quarter’s total in TV.

California’s Film and Television Tax Credit is far smaller than those of rival states with a maximum of 25% of the budget. With only $100 million in credits available annually, demand far exceeds supply with recipients selected through a lottery in June.

The 37.3% gain in pilots is a key increase, given the shift away from Hollywood for the current TV season. FilmL.A.’s annual Television Pilot Production report last June 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.

That 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.

And 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.

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