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No surprise: Los Angeles is losing share of TV pilot production

As if L.A. needed any more reminders of just how much production is leaving town, along comes fresh data to document the grim trend.

While much attention has focused on the migration of feature film production, a new survey highlights how the exodus of production is eroding another key segment of the local economy: the filming of television pilots.

TV pilots, the pool of contenders from which the networks choose their series, on average employ 150 people per show and have budgets from $3 to $5 million.

But as any location manager will tell you, this year's pilot season was a bust, reflecting a steady erosion in the local industry.

The number of pilots produced in L.A. fell nearly 42% to 59 from 101 between 2004 and 2009, according to a report from FilmL.A. Inc, the nonprofit group that handles film permits. In large measure that's because the networks are ordering fewer pilots as they rely more on reality programming in prime time.

But the survey also provides evidence that some of the loss is due to market share going to other locales. Consider: In 2004 L.A. hosted 81% of all pilots. That dropped to 57% in 2009. Of 103 pilots produced this year, 59 were shot in L.A. and 42 were produced outside California, mostly in Canada and states such as New Mexico, Louisiana and Illinois that offer film tax credits and rebates.

"The fact that so many of this year's pilots chose to film outside the area shows that no facet of the entertainment industry can be considered captive in Los Angeles,"  said FilmL.A. President Paul Audley.

-- Richard Verrier

 
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