Only 10 of 2017's Top 100 Box-Office Hits Were Made in California

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While last year's top movies accounted for $7.55 billion in production spending, the Golden State lagged behind Canada, the state of Georgia and the U.K. in attracting such film productions.

The 100 top-grossing films at the North American box office in 2017 accounted for $7.55 billion in direct production spending, FilmL.A. reported Wednesday as it issued its 2017 Feature Film Study.

Analyzing where all that money was spent, the organization, the official film office of the city and county of Los Angeles, found that the features — whose budgets ranged from $4.5 million to more than $300 million — spent half of their production budgets in the U.S. That was the lowest share for the U.S. since FilmL.A. began its tracking in 2013.

Outside the U.S., Canada hosted a record 20 films, marking the country’s first time in the top spot in the survey. The U.K. followed with 15.

Within the U.S., the top production centers for the highest-grossing films include Georgia — which held the top spot in 2016, but was overtaken by Canada this year — with 15 projects, followed by California with 10 and New York with six. While New York is the second-ranked production center in the U.S., it was not able to carve out a significant share of the top 100 films.

Outside those centers of production, filming took place in more than a dozen U.S. states and 20 nations spread across Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.

The annual report aims to help businesses and policymakers in California better understand the state’s standing in the competition to attract movie projects.

“In an age when film production is an established global enterprise, California remains a top international competitor,” FilmL.A. president Paul Audley commented. “This report reinforces a fact that is increasingly well understood — that a skilled local workforce, robust infrastructure support and a competitive film incentive are prerequisite for film project attraction at scale.” 

Of the 10 films produced in California, four were animated and six were live-action, but the live-action pics tended to be at the lower end of the budget spectrum. And of those six live-action movies, four were made in the state despite not receiving tax credits: The House, with a budget of $40 million; Home Again, $15 million; Lady Bird, $10 million; and The Disaster Artist, $10 million. That’s in part because tax incentives in other locations are often not lucrative enough to attract smaller projects with budgets of $10 million or less.

The report also found that postproduction can easily account for 50 percent of a film’s credited jobs on productions where the budget exceeds $100 million. Major production centers like Canada have invested heavily to attract postproduction work, including visual effects, with dedicated incentives and infrastructure, the study says.

While VFX takes place around the globe, it’s a significant presence in Canada and the U.K., followed by the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Germany and France. 

Fourteen of the top 100 films in the FilmL.A. study are animated. The U.S. produced five of them, with California leading the nation with four. But international competitors continued to make headway: Canada, led by the province of British Columbia, eclipsed the U.S. in 2017 by hosting six animated films. 

In terms of film incentive programs, the U.K. made the biggest commitment by investing $822 million. In North America, Georgia could claim the largest film incentive program: $800 million. 

California emerged as the primary location for music scoring, with 37 of the 100 films in the study laying down music tracks in the Golden State, a slight improvement over 2016, when the state tallied 35. 

But the report also acknowledges, “Generally speaking, California remains at a disadvantage in attracting the most expensive feature film projects.” It notes that for the third year in a row, the state was not represented by a single live-action movie with a budget of more than $100 million.

The study predicts that several big-budget movies filming in California in 2017-18 — such as BumblebeeOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood and Captain Marvel — should have an impact in future reports, with pics like Bumblebee and Captain Marvel benefitting from the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program 2.0. It also forecasts that California is in a good position to attract projects for streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, with films like Bright and The Cloverfield Paradox receiving the state’s tax incentive.