Off-lot pic prod’n sees December dip

Sixth consecutive annual decline

Off-lot feature production activity in Hollywood remained moderate in December, while TV shoots fell off their record-setting pace during the month, according to figures released Wednesday.

Permitted feature productions totaled 680, down 91 from November, according to figures compiled by the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. Total was the fifth highest of 2003 and 150 days ahead of December 2002, but 27% short of the most active month in 2002.

For the year, off-lot feature activity totaled 7,329 days, down 9% over 2002 and 48% behind the record of 13,980 permitted days in 1996. The trend of feature filming’s departure from Los Angeles continued with the sixth consecutive year-to-year decline, as producers opt for the combo of lower-cost feature locations plus foreign incentives.

Monthly off-lot feature production has not topped 1,000 days in Los Angeles since June 2001, which marked the end of a production boom created by fear of potential actors and writers strikes.

Lisa Rawlins, chair of the EIDC board, said she could not forecast off-lot activity for 2004 but added, “The December 2003 number for features certainly provides some hope.”

Features lensing locally in December included “Aviator,” “Collateral,” “Crash,” “Constantine,” “Cursed,” “Spanglish” and “Taxi.”

The EIDC also reported that December TV production decelerated to the third-lowest level of the year with 887 days, 496 behind the previous month. But TV production traditionally slows in December, and the activity was 75 days ahead of December 2002.

TV activity for 2003 totaled 14,395, up 13% over 2002 and higher than any other yearly total. TV shoots, spurred by the growth of cable and reality shows, have more than doubled from 1994, when the EIDC began operations.

Series shooting locally include “24,” “Charmed,” “The District,” “Judging Amy,” “The Practice” and “Scrubs.”

Rawlins noted the first quarter of 2004 will likely see the same pace of TV activity.

Report also showed a rebound in December commercials activity with 620 days, up 188 from November and the second highest total of 2003. As a result, ad shoots gained slightly for the year to 5,701 days from 5,615, but those figures are well below the historical highs of 6,654 in 1997 and 6,569 in 1999.

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