Pretty Little Liars

Comedy remains king while dramas lag

The 96 TV pilots shot in Los Angeles this year generated $277.8 million in production spending, up 6% over last year, according to the FilmL.A. permitting agency.

Despite competition from other production centers such as New York, Toronto, Vancouver and Atlanta, Los Angeles managed to increase its total by retaining its crown as the king of comedy in pilots with 83% of  production but continued to see its share of drama pilots decline from 28% to 22%.

FilmLA said the 96 projects were the second largest annual tally in Los Angeles’ history, up four from last year and six fewer that the peak year in 2005. It also noted that from Jan. 1 to June 10 this year, permitted production days for pilots were up almost 40% over 2012.

But Hollywood’s share of pilots has been declining with just 52% of all pilots in the current cycle, the second lowest on record and far below the 82% percent share in 2007.

“By the beginning of the 2013/2014 fall viewing season, L.A.’s share of network screen time devoted to primetime scripted dramas will have fallen below 40%, a new low,” the report noted. “In all, viewers this fall will be exposed to 38 L.A.-based shows (15 dramas, 23 comedies). And viewers will also be exposed to 27 shows filmed outside the region (26 dramas, 1 comedy). Come mid-season, L.A.’s drama share could be even smaller, since just one L.A. show was picked up as a midseason replacement.”

The report noted that the loss of one TV drama series can amount to thousands of lost jobs and tens of millions of dollars of lost production spending over several viewing seasons while comedy series are less expensive to produce than dramas.

California’s production incentives are smaller than other states with a maximum tax credit of 25% and a total of $100 million available annually with demand far exceeding supply. The fourth season of MTV’s “Teen Wolf” was recently granted a credit for $11.09 million, the highest of the 31 new allocations from California’s Film and Television Tax Credit program, in which TV series take the lion’s share.

“Teen Wolf,” which has been relocated from Georgia, topped Warner Bros. “Major Crimes” with the second-highest allocation at $9.1 million followed by a pair of Horizon series — “Rizzoli & Isles” with $8.55 million and “Pretty Little Liars” (pictured) with $8.04 million.  CBS Studios’ “King & Maxwell,” which is relocating from Vancouver, is receiving the fifth highest 2013 allocation with $6.2 million, followed by the fifth season of “Justified” with $5.9 million.

The report also noted that 90 other pilots — of which 75 were one-hour drama projects — were produced outside the region, up 15 from last year. The top four competitors for pilot production were New York (19 pilots), Vancouver (15 pilots), Atlanta (9 pilots) and Toronto (6 pilots) followed by New Orleans and Chicago with five each.

“Drama producers use incentives to offset the increased cost of long-distance production while affording higher-end
production values,” the report said. “Often, this means financial concerns trump creative concerns when deciding where to shoot. For example, Atlanta and Vancouver each hosted pilots that were thematically set in L.A.. Just one of the pilots shot in Atlanta is actually set there. Likewise, none of the 15 pilots shot in Vancouver are set in the city.”

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