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Reality sets in for off-lot activity

Prod'n in Los Angeles shifts towards TV, away from flicks

Los Angeles County saw solid levels of off-lot film production in October, up 18% from a year ago, while TV production remained on a red-hot pace fueled by reality TV.

Permitted feature production days totaled 841 in October, the third highest level in two years, according to numbers released Friday by the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. September’s feature total was a mild 599 days.

October’s film activity brought the 10-month total to 6,973 days, up 18% compared with last year but down 17% from the 10-year average. In recent years, Los Angeles production has shifted toward TV and away from features, which have been lured away by government incentives and cheaper costs.

The numbers for 2004 offer little evidence of stockpiling so far since they’re still well below the totals logged during the first half of 2001, when a production boom due to fear of work stoppages by the WGA, SAG and AFTRA sent each month’s activity over 1,000 days.

Features lensing in Los Angeles include “Bad News Bears,” “Bewitched,” “Must Love Dogs,” “Red Eye” and “The Shaggy Dog.”

TV activity totaled 1,609 days in September and 1,841 in October, making last month the second-highest on record, trailing only the 2,466 days in March when a booming pilot season spurred off-lot TV production. For the year, TV production is up 78% over the 10-year average.

“During the past year, TV producers have pulled more permits, employed more locations and filmed more days in Los Angeles than did any of our other customers,” said EIDC prexy Steve McDonald. “In fact, TV contributes more location days to our yearly totals than feature, commercial and musicvideo production combined.”

The EIDC noted that reality shows account for 49% of the TV location activity, followed by 37% for dramas and sitcoms. The agency pointed out that 7 of 15 reality shows airing during the fall season on networks pulled permits via the EIDC and that another 13 reality programs with permits air on cable.

“The current production climate is helped by a weak dollar working to offset international incentives,” McDonald said. “Nonetheless, we still must work to compete. Incentives offered by other states make Los Angeles one choice among many for filmmakers.”

The EIDC, which handles about 80% of the permits for shooting on public property in the county, also showed improved performance in commercial shoots, with 567 days for September and 503 for October. Year-to-date commercial shoots are up 21% over the same period of 2003 and 18% ahead of the 10-year average.

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