×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hollywood Continues to Flee California at Alarming Rate

When Paul Audley took the job as president of FilmL.A. in late 2008, he was astounded to discover that physical production on the $70 million pic “Battle: Los Angeles” wasn’t being done in Los Angeles.

“It stunned me that the movie was shooting in Louisiana, and that the state of California was letting this happen,” he recalls.

In the subsequent five years, the situation has only worsened, despite the film production incentive program California enacted in 2009, which provides for $100 million a year in tax credits for what’s usually 20% of production costs. That’s significantly smaller than programs offered by other states such as New York, which offers $420 million a year in credits for 30% of production costs.

The trend has been mounting for high-profile films set in the Golden State to be filmed almost entirely outside California, due to lucrative tax breaks elsewhere that producers can’t turn down. One key component of new legislation to strengthen California’s incentive program, introduced Feb. 19, would raise to $100 million the current budget cap of $75 million on eligible productions. To drive home the need for state support, attendees at a Feb. 22 rally in Burbank held by Hollywood unionists were handed petitions to send to Sacramento citing that only one of 41 big-budget feature films shot in 2012 and 2013 was shot entirely in California.

The latest example of a locally set runaway is New Line’s upcoming earthquake thriller “San Andreas,” in which a helicopter pilot played by Dwayne Johnson rescues his daughter in San Francisco after a 10.0 quake. Except for six planned days of shooting in San Francisco, the entire $100 million movie will be made in Australia at the Village Roadshow Studios in Gold Coast, Queensland.

In December, “San Andreas” was granted a portion of Australia’s $20 million film fund set up specifically to attract overseas movies. Additionally, the film benefits from offsets from the Queensland Production Incentive Scheme, as well as local payroll tax rebates and federal rebates. Queensland officials have estimated that the movie will pump $30 million into the state economy, employ 70 local production crew, and provide roles for more than 2,000 extras.

“It’s frustrating to get only a few days shooting in San Francisco, but it’s better than nothing,” said San Francisco film commissioner Susannah Robbins. “Once again, the producers are going to where they’re getting the best incentive.”

There were even fewer days — four — shot in San Francisco for Legendary’s upcoming tentpole “Godzilla,” with most of the filming being done in Vancouver and Hawaii. Fox took a similar tack with its forthcoming summer release “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and that pic’s 2011 predecessor “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” both of which were shot primarily in Canada with a few days of establishing shots in San Francisco.

“Producers tell us, ‘I’d love to shoot here but I have to go where the incentives are,’ ” Robbins notes.

Robbins has been touting San Francisco’s rebate program — which provides for up to $600,000 of production costs including rentals, street closures, permit fees, payroll taxes and police officers — in order to overcome the ingrained belief that such programs don’t exist in California. “We had eight productions use the rebate in its first six years, and we’ve had seven more since July.” San Francisco has a tradition as an iconic film location, with such titles as “Bullitt,” “Dirty Harry” and “Vertigo” having filmed in the city.

Further south, not a frame of “Rock of Ages,” set on the Sunset Strip, was shot in Los Angeles, although filming did take place in Hollywood — Florida, that is — at the Hard Rock Casino, along with a six-block section of North Miami Avenue in downtown Miami, decorated as a late-1980s version set of the Strip, replete with the Whisky-a-Go-Go, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Tower Records and the Angelyne Billboard.

Even the ruins of a future Los Angeles shown in “Elysium” were shot in Mexico and Canada.

Steve Dayan, who serves as vice chairman of the state film commission and secretary-treasurer of Local 399 of the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters, spoke at the Feb. 22 labor rally, promising his union would be willing to repeat its 1999 action of encircling the State Capitol in Sacramento with 200 Teamster trucks — a tactic used to campaign for incentives. “We are not going to let other states poach our jobs,” he said, evoking loud applause from the 700-plus attendees.

Audley’s agency is tasked with troubleshooting and simplifying the permit process. He’s been pressing the point that although location-based feature production increased by 18% in Los Angeles last year, to 6,900 days, that number is only half what it was in 1996. And the growth is not coming in higher value projects. Audley said. “(Other states are cherry picking the best stuff away from us,” he noted.

Dayan admits that producers have been substituting locations for as long as films have been shot. “Downtown L.A. has been used for New York City many times,” he said. But he noted that production costs on big features are now so high that it’s impossible for producers to shoot in town.

“We’re making the argument that by creating and retaining jobs, the new legislation would pay for itself,” he explained.

While statistics abound that show the extent of the economic impact of locally set runaways, on another level, the issue is emotional. The Feb. 22 rally featured an impassioned declaration by Maria Elena Durazo, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, who pledged that organized labor will back the push for an improved film incentive.

“We are going to stand with you to make sure Hollywood does not become Detroit,” she declared. “I’ll be damned if we’re going to stand by and see the last film industry worker here turn out the lights. Hell, no!”

More Biz

  • Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018

    Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018 Compensation Soar to $129.4 Million

    Discovery Inc. president-CEO David Zaslav is once again making headlines for an enormous compensation package. Zaslav’s 2018 compensation soared to $129.44 million in 2018, fueled by stock options and grants awarded as the longtime Discovery chief signed a new employment contract last July that takes him through 2023 at the cable programming group. Zaslav received [...]

  • Jonathan Lamy RIAA

    Jonathan Lamy Stepping Down From RIAA

    Jonathan Lamy, the Recording Industry Association of America’s longtime executive VP of communications and marketing, is stepping down from his post after 17 years, he announced today. As he put it in an email to Variety, “I started back in 2002, which means it’s been 17+ years, four different RIAA CEOs, three format changes and [...]

  • Fox Layoffs

    Disney-21st Fox Layoffs: TV Divisions Brace for Deep Cuts

    A second day of layoffs has begun on the Fox lot in the wake of Disney completing its acquisition of 21st Century Fox on Wednesday. Longtime 20th Century Fox Television Distribution president Mark Kaner is among the senior executives who were formally notified with severance details on Friday morning. 21st Century Fox’s international TV sales [...]

  • anthony pellicano

    Hollywood Fixer Anthony Pellicano Released From Federal Prison

    Anthony Pellicano, the Hollywood private eye whose wiretapping case riveted the industry a decade ago, was released from a federal prison on Friday, a prison spokeswoman confirmed. Pellicano was sentenced in 2008 to 15 years, following his conviction on 78 charges of wiretapping, racketeering, conspiracy and wire fraud. He had been in custody since 2003, [...]

  • This image taken from the Twitter

    HBO’s Reaction to Trump’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Campaign

    Everyone wants a piece of the “Game of Thrones” lemon cake. From Bud Light to Red Bull the world of Westeros is open to a lot of brand partnerships, unless you’re using that iconic typeface to push a political agenda. In November of 2018 President Donald Trump unveiled a “Thrones” inspired poster with the words [...]

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    'Leaving Neverland' Lawsuit Proves to Be a Judicial Hot Potato

    The Michael Jackson estate sued HBO last month for airing the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which accuses the late King of Pop of serial child sexual abuse. Since then, the case has had a difficult time finding a judge to handle it. Three federal judges have recused themselves in the last week, citing potential financial conflicts [...]

  • Members of the public mourn at

    Guy Oseary’s New Zealand Fundraiser Nears $150,000, Continues Raising Money

    In the wake of the horrific shootings at New Zealand mosques last week that killed some 49 people, Maverick chief Guy Oseary launched a GoFundMe campaign to “support those affected by this tragedy at this very difficult time,” and began it with an $18,000 donation. Boosted by donations from many celebrities — including Amy Schumer, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content