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Filming in Los Angeles continued to decline across most categories to start the year as Hollywood braces for a potential work stoppage.
Particularly for TV shooting, local office FilmLA attributed the dropoff to the suspension of production decisions “pending the outcome of corporate restructuring actions and industry labor negotiations.”
“Over three consecutive quarters, we’ve seen a significant slowdown across all of the most economically important categories of on-location production,” said FilmLA president Paul Audley in a statement, noting that “decisions about future content direction are on hold.”
The first quarter that ended in March saw a 7,476 shoot days, according to FilmLA. The figure represents a 24 percent decline from the same period last year. At that time, Los Angeles was enjoying a production surge due to a backlog of content stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The film office reported that the start of 2022 was the busiest first quarter ever, with 9,832 shoot days. The latest report shows that the post-COVID production surge has stopped.
The data incorporates shooting days for feature films, television and commercials as well as music videos, student films and documentaries.
Television production, which was a sustaining force during Los Angeles’ recovery from COVID-related impacts and drives the most filming in California, posted the largest quarterly decline among the major production categories. It fell over 35 percent from the first quarter of last year and 24 percent from the five-year average. (Five-year averages exclude the year 2020, when production was suspended in Los Angeles County between mid-March through mid-June 2020 due to COVID-19.)
FilmLA reported that filming for TV dramas is down roughly 40 percent compared to the previous year, declining from 1,279 to 762 shoot days. Reality TV production saw a similar decline of over 37 percent, though shooting levels for the category are more than 17 percent above the five-year average. The largest decline was in filming for TV pilots. There were just seven shoot days in the category for the quarter — a 95 percent decline from the five-year average.
Despite an increase of nearly 100 shoot days for TV sitcoms, which posted the highest year-over-year increase of any TV category, filming for such shows remains roughly 22 percent below the five-year average. TV sitcoms that filmed locally last quarter include American Auto (NBC), Young Sheldon (CBS), Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX), Killing It (Peacock) and This Fool (Hulu).
Tax incentives are a significant driver of TV productions choosing to shoot in Los Angeles. Last year, California bolstered the Film & Television Tax Credit program with an additional $180 million in incentives on top of the $330 million already earmarked for the industry. Part of the program is geared specifically toward incentivizing TV productions to relocate to California. Production for the second season of Citadel nabbed $25 million in tax credits for relocating to the state from the U.K. It will bring more spending than any other relocating TV series in California tax credit program history, according to the California Film Commission.
While feature film production remained flat for the quarter, with just one less shoot day to start the year as the same period in 2022, the category was down roughly 13 percent from the five-year average. Nearly 100 shoot days, an estimated 16 percent of all feature film production, was tied to the state’s film incentive. Films that shot locally included Unicorn (Apple Studios), Fast X (Universal Pictures), Black Girl, Erupted (BET Her), On Swift Horses (independent), Stealing Pulp Fiction (independent) and Wishing Well (independent).
Production for commercials continued its decline from last quarter, with a drop of over 32 percent compared to five-year average. Other categories, including photography shoots, student films and music videos, posted a decline of roughly 13 percent for the same period.
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