Reality prod'n jump offsets overall slump in L.A. area

Location shoot days inched up in '06

Feature film and commercial location shoots in the Los Angeles area declined in 2006, but a big boom in the production of reality TV shows, which jumped more than 50%, still allowed overall location filming to increase about 1% for the year.

FilmLA, the private, nonprofit film office that coordinates location permits, said Wednesday that the Los Angeles region tallied 55,399 on-location production days during '06, compared with 54,876 in 2005.

The weak 1% growth rate fell short of the 4% growth in 2005, which followed a 19% rise in '04.

There was a 7.4% decrease in feature film production, which marked a return to a downward trend that began in 1997 and continued uninterrupted through 2003. Feature production during '06 totaled 8,813 days, down from 9,518 days in '05.

The '06 figures represent a 37% decline from 1996, when feature production in Los Angeles peaked with a total of 13,980 production days. Los Angeles appears to be losing location work to other locales now offering financial incentives and improved infrastructure to attract filmmakers.

"We may look back on 2006 as a turning point given it was the year when 16 of the 28 states that currently offer financial incentives either enacted them for the first time or significantly sweetened what they have to offer," FilmLA president Steve MacDonald said.

Commercial production, which was affected by a six-month strike by SAG and AFTRA over commercial contracts, fell 3.4% in '06. But MacDonald said that other, long-term changes also affected commercial shoots.

"Commercial producers are increasingly opting for lower-cost locations overseas and in other U.S. states," MacDonald said. "In addition, changes to the advertising landscape such as the shift from broadcast commercials to ads on the Internet and nontraditional media are having a significant effect."

With films and commercials fading, a 52.7% leap of reality TV production boosted the numbers. Figures for reality and scripted programs combined for a 10.2% gain in overall TV production during '06. Within the scripted category, on-location sitcom production rose 12.6%, while dramas were up 6.2%. Reality's surge gave the category a 41% share of all on-location television days in Los Angeles last year.

The production figures are based on permit applications coordinated by FilmLA and represent permitted days of on-location production in the city of Los Angeles; unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County; the cities of West Hollywood, Diamond Bar and South Gate; the Angeles National Forest; and all facilities operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Burbank Unified School District. The figures account for more than 80% of on-location production in Los Angeles County but do not include production that occurs on certified sound stages or on location in surrounding cities.
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