FilmLA Reveals Production Fled Los Angeles at the End of 2011

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UPDATED: Dramatic drops in Q4 film and TV production are a troubling signs for local entertainment shoots.

Movie and TV productions continued to run away from Los Angeles in 2011, based on statistics released Tuesday by FilmLA, which coordinates permits for entertainment shot on location (outside of the studios) in L.A. and much of Los Angeles County.

Production of feature films was up 5.7% for the year (5,682 permits issued versus 5,378 in the prior year) but dropped 26.4% in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to 2010, which was already a down year due to the lingering impact of the global economic crisis and recession.

Television production was down 2.7% and fell 10.6% in the fourth quarter of  2011 compared to the prior year. But the situation was actually much worse than that. The number of permits issued for TV dramas was down a dramatic 11.5%  (down 29.9% in the fourth quarter), and for TV sitcoms a 12.8% drop from 2010. Production of TV reality shows was down  1.8% and TV pilot production fell 6.1% compared to the prior year.

Boosting the category was production of commercials, which was up 4.4% year to year, and the category “others” which includes things like web series shoots was  up 12.6%. So overall, FilmLA reported on-location production increased 4.2% for the year.

But clearly that was not a cause for celebration, as the press release about the report makes clear:

“Though finishing in positive territory, the overall annual gain hides a disconcerting trend in television production. In the past, even as runaway production took its toll on local feature film production, L.A. could rely on television as its “bread and butter”.  However, in 2011, Television saw a 2.7 percent annual decline (17,349 PPD in 2011 vs. 17,833 in 2010), driven by a significant 10.6 percent drop in the fourth quarter of 2011.

"The Q4 decrease is due to a disappointing -- though anticipated -- fall production season, as the Los Angeles region lost production of ten one-hour TV Drama series to other states, notably New York, which is having a record television season now that it offers more than four times the amount of funding available in filming tax credits than California.”

According to the report, the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program did help, especially in features. Movies that received state tax breaks represented 11.5 percent of the annual total.

The head of FilmLA tried to sound a positive note in a statement, but the challenges are clear. “While we are relieved to see annual gains in overall production days, we cannot take any growth for granted,” said FilmL.A. President Paul Audley.  “We must fight to keep and attract more feature films and high-value television series to keep our vendor companies and crews working and our region’s economy afloat.”