LA Entertainment Jobs, Production Days Increased in 2012, Says Report

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The number of entertainment jobs in Los Angeles rose 3.7 percent in 2012 due to an increase in production days, according to a report released Wednesday. However, television production in the county declined for at least the second year in a row. Feature film and commercial production took up the slack and more, yielding the third annual increase in a row for overall production days.

The report, by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, also found digital media to be an increasingly bright spot in the mix, asserting that “Silicon Beach” – a moniker for the concentration of digital media companies in Venice, Culver City and Santa Monica – “will continue to grow as Silicon Valley companies seek to capitalize on the presence of creative content here in Los Angeles.”

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In addition, said the LAEDC report, “venture capital will flow to the area as startups in a variety of technology industries grow in number.” The study did not attempt to quantify the recent or predicted growth of digital media or venture capital.

Hard numbers were provided for employment and production days. On the employment front, the industry added over 4,600 jobs last year, a gain of 3.7 percent. At 129,700 jobs, employment in the industry was at its highest level in four years – a return to pre-recession levels, but still shy of the 2004 peak of 132,200 jobs, let alone the 1999 figure of 146,300 jobs.

Those figures are for wage and salary jobs. The report estimated the number of independent contractors to be over 85,000 as of 2012. That’s higher than the pre-recession figure of 82,400.

The report did not attempt to evaluate overall earnings from entertainment jobs. Union studies and anecdotal evidence have consistently noted decreases in wage levels since the 2007-2008 writers strike and the recession.

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The report also looked at permitted on-location production days, calling this a “reasonable proxy for industry activity” despite the fact that it doesn’t capture on-the-lot production. Overall production days increased to 46,254, a 1.7 percent increase. That’s the third annual increase since a recession low in 2009, but still falls short of the pre-recession (and pre writers strike) level of 55,000 that prevailed from 2005-2007.

Feature production days increased by 3.7 percent last year, and commercials surged by 14.1 percent. Television experienced a decline of 3.4 percent, following a 2.5 percent decrease a year earlier.

The report offered no prediction for the future, but noted that “if the recent trend continues, employment this year will be within range of the 2004 pre-recession high of 132,200 jobs.”

Whether more substantial job gains can be achieved, said the study, may depend in part on the success of the California Film Tax Credit program in the coming years.

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The report also noted that motion picture domestic box office increased by 5.4 percent in 2012 to $10.6 billion, but that “’at-home’ entertainment” spending was essentially flat at $18 billion.

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