L.A. On-Location Filming Growth Stalls in Second Quarter

Slowdowns seen in key film production categories and underwhelming numbers for feature, TV and commercial projects.

The pace of making movies, TV shows and commercials in Los Angeles was sluggish in the second quarter, showing a “marked slowdown in key film categories and underwhelming numbers,” according to a report released Tuesday by FilmL.A.

On-location filming across all categories increased 1.1 percent in the second quarter of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, said FilmL.A., the private, not-for-profit group that coordinates and processes on-location permits. It tracks permitted production days in the city of L.A. and unincorporated areas (its statistics do not include anything shot on a studio lot).

The biggest losses in the latest report came in the TV category, which dropped 0.7 percent (4,024 vs. 4,052 permit production days), led by declines in sitcoms (down 29.4 percent) and reality TV (down 12.9 percent). 

However, the big surprise in the TV category was a 26.6% increase in dramas thanks to production of such cable TV shows as TNT’s Hawthorne and FX’s Sons of Anarchy.

The production of feature films on location increased 4% compared with the same period a year earlier (1,604 vs. 1,542 days). 

However, the report says that unlike every other quarter since July 2009 — when the state of California inaugurated the tax incentive program to stop runaway production — the $100 million California Film & Television Tax Credit program “had only a minor impact on local feature production totals.”

Only five features using the California tax incentives filmed on location in Los Angeles this past quarter, generating 117 days or 7.3 percent of overall feature production. The same quarter in 2010 saw 16 features using tax incentives, which generated 423 days of work or 27% of the features produced in and around L.A.

“We expect to see features get a boost as a new crop of incentivized projects hits the streets,” FilmL.A. president Paul Audley said. “Unfortunately, the momentum we carried in television may be gone. A lot of the new shows you’ll see this fall won’t be filming in California. As a result, we’re expecting a lackluster second half of the year for TV.”

Also down was production of commercials, decreasing 7.5% in the second quarter compared with the prior year. That came after a 21-month surge that surprised industry experts.