Entertainment Industry

Category: production

On Location: Cameras rolling on Sofia Coppola’s L.A. crime caper

Sofia Coppola began production on "The Bling Ring," starring Leslie Mann and Emma Watson, in Calabasas this week

Independent film darling and Oscar winner Sofia Coppola began production on "The Bling Ring" in Calabasas this week, according to the city clerk's office. The majority of filming, however, is expected to take place in Los Angeles.

The movie, inspired by true events, is about fame-obsessed teens growing up on the fringes of Hollywood celebrity culture who become burglars targeting the homes of stars.

Leslie Mann and Emma Watson star in the film along with a crop of fresh young faces, including Taissa Farmiga, Katie Chang and Maika Monroe. Coppola, daughter of famed director Francis Ford Coppola, also wrote the script and is producing alongside her brother, Roman Coppola, and Youree Henley.

Representatives for Coppola and San Francisco-based production company American Zoetrope declined to comment.

The real Bling Ring, also known as The Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch, was a group of L.A. teenagers that burglarized numerous celebrities, including Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, by using the Internet to track down their whereabouts and addresses. The group allegedly stole more than $3 million worth of clothing and jewelry in 2008 and 2009.

The burglaries have already inspired adaptations. In the 2010 premiere episode of "Law & Order: Los Angeles," the fictional detectives tracked down a young group of thieves that robbed the rich and famous. A made-for-T.V. movie, also titled "The Bling Ring," aired on Lifetime last year.

This will be Coppola's second consecutive film to tell a uniquely Angeleno tale. Her last picture, Focus Feature's 2010 release "Somewhere," starred Stephen Dorff as an idle Hollywood actor going through an existential crisis while living at the legendary Chateau Marmont.


"The Hunger Games" fuels Hollywood's appetite for North Carolina

The Directors: Sofia Coppola takes a floor at the Chateau Marmont

"Walking Dead" producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded film credit

-- Dima Alzayat

Photo: Sofia Coppola on the set of Focus Features' "Somewhere." Credit: Franco Biciocchi / Focus Features

'Luck' horse deaths renew debate on use of animals in film

luck horse race

HBO's decision this week to halt production on "Luck" in the wake of three horse deaths has renewed debate about how animals are used in filmed entertainment.

HBO said it couldn't guarantee more accidents would not occur on the low-rated drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, but it also took pains to isolate the "Luck" case as unique given the dangers of horse racing — a point backed up by some experts.

The incident has put a fresh spotlight on the American Humane Assn., the nonprofit group that monitors more than 2,000 productions that use animal performers and is partly funded by the Screen Actors Guild. The AHA, criticized in the past for having overly close ties with the industry it's charged with monitoring, has vigorously defended its handling of the horses on "Luck."

Read more on the story in the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times.


'War Horse' tapped veteran trainer Bobby Lovgren

On Location: Raleigh Studios looks to expand into Utah

'Walking Dead' producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded tax credit

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Horse races on the set of "Luck." Credit: Gusmano Cesaretti / HBO


'Walking Dead' producer Gale Anne Hurd urges expanded film credit

Gale Anne Hurd is one of Hollywood’s top filmmakers, having been a producer on such big hit action movies as “The Terminator” and “Aliens” and now AMC’s successful zombie drama series “The Walking Dead.” But Hurd hasn’t worked in California for nearly a decade, largely because of more favorable film tax credits and rebates offered in other locales. A fourth-generation Los Angeles native, Hurd would like to see that change. She’s among many high-profile film and television producers who are hoping California will extend and expand its tax credit to make it more competitive with the likes of Georgia, New York and Illinois. Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) recently introduced a bill that would extend the program, which launched in 2009 and is set to expire next year, through 2018. Hurd, co-founder of the Producers Guild of America’s annual Produced By Conference, spoke to On Location about her views on the state credit and what Sacramento could do to strengthen it.

Hurd Walking Dead California Film Tax Credits

You live in L.A. but rarely shoot here. Why not?

I film my TV series [“The Walking Dead”] out of state and have not filmed in California since I produced “The Hulk” in 2003. As much as I would like to sleep in my own bed at night and employ many of the incredibly talented California-based crew members, I have filmed instead in Georgia, Toronto and Detroit and many other [places] with much higher incentives. I have a project that’s about to shoot in New York that’s called “Very Good Girls” [a feature starring Elizabeth Olsen and Dakota Fanning].

So is California’s film tax credit not effective?

It’s fantastic that we have a program, but it can’t be viewed in a vacuum because producers and financiers look at all of the available options and the pros and the cons and you want to limit the number of cons that you have.

If you had a message to send to California lawmakers, what would it be?

The film and television industry is one of the most productive businesses in California, and employs thousands of residents as crew, cast and in executive positions. We pay taxes, we shop locally, send our children to school here and keep allied businesses [restaurants, dry cleaners, retail stores, car dealerships] in profit. The impact from lost production to other states and countries amounts to billions of dollars. With a competitive tax credit, California can reclaim its position as the entertainment capital of the world. Currently, our tax credit is not on par with those of New York, Georgia, North Carolina and New Mexico, among others.

In what way?

There are so many restrictions. The tax credit is not a transferable credit [except for independent projects with budgets under $10 million]. You can’t sell it like you can in other states like Georgia. You have to apply by June 1 and even if you are awarded the credit you have to start rolling your cameras 180 days after you're notified [of an approval]. But if your cast member isn’t available until January or February, then it doesn’t work.

As a producer, you have to go with a known commodity. That means shooting where you know you will be qualified so you can keep very precious finance, cast and budget schedules intact. To me, the tax credit should be a rolling situation like it is in most states, so that when you have your project together, you can submit it and be considered. That would be a first step.

What else would you like to see changed?

Raising the limit [on the annual tax credit allocation] from $100 million to $200 million a year is a minimum when you consider New York has $420 million a year. When you think about the number of people working in the industry, there are far more people based in California than in New York, but New York right now has more than four times the incentive.

Skeptics would say California can’t afford such an expansion. What do you say to that?

If you look at the impact that the industry has on the state in terms of taxes paid, in terms of the multiplier effect for each dollar that’s spent, I think it’s ridiculous... Part of what they’re saying is that projects will shoot here anyway, but that’s simply not true. ["The Incredible Hulk," the 2008 Marvel reboot of the big green guy's franchise that Hurd also produced, was filmed mainly in Canada.]

Why did you select Georgia as the location for shooting “The Walking Dead?”

The series is based on a comic book that is set in the South. Georgia [also] has a 30% tax credit. It was absolutely essential. For many independent financiers, their financing is incumbent upon tax credits or rebates. It’s part of their business plan. Those financing entities cannot shoot where they cannot be guaranteed a tax credit.


On Location: Raleigh Studios looks to expand into Utah

Louisiana film industry expects strong growth in 2012

Report: film tax credits pumped $3.8 billion into California's economy

— Richard Verrier

Photo: Gale Anne Hurd , CEO of Valhalla Entertainment, poses for a portrait at Valhalla Entertainment in Los Angeles on March 13 with a model of a zombie from the AMC series' "The Walking Dead," for which Hurd is the executive producer. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Where the cameras roll
Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times

'The Lone Ranger' rides again in New Mexico

Lone Ranger Depp

The masked vigilante is back in the saddle. After suspending production last summer over budgetary concerns, Walt Disney Studios started rolling the cameras on “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp, in New Mexico this week.

“They’re doing studio soundstage work through March and then location work around the state after that,” said New Mexico Film Office director Nick Maniatis.

The film will shoot in Albuquerque Studios, in the Rio Puerco Valley, and near Silver City while in New Mexico. Filming will also take place in Arizona, Utah and Colorado, according to a statement from Disney.

The revival of "The Lone Ranger" comes at a welcome time for New Mexico, which saw a sharp falloff in film activity last year when the future of its tax incentive program was thrown into question (the state kept its 25% film tax rebate, but imposed a funding cap on the program).  Sony Pictures Imageworks announced this week that it would close its visual effects unit in Albuquerque in part because of the decline in film production in the state.

A retelling of the popular 1950s television western series, "The Lone Ranger" stars Armie Hammer as the western hero and Depp as his Native American sidekick, Tonto. The movie is scheduled to be released in theaters on May 31, 2013.

Production was originally scheduled to start in October, but in August Disney shelved the film until producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski found a way to trim the budget to around $210 million from an estimated $250 million to $275 million.

Set construction near Silver City came to a stop and workers were laid off due to the halt. Crew members are now glad to be back at work, said Jon Hendry, business agent for Local 480 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents crew members in New Mexico.

“I estimate 350 to 400 [New Mexicans] are working on the film,” Hendry said. “We're happy they're hiring New Mexicans."


'The Lone Ranger' is out of the saddle 

Lone Ranger may get back in the saddle soon 

Disney shuts down production of 'Lone Ranger'

-- Dima Alzayat

Photo: John Hart played the Masked Man during part of "The Lone Ranger's" television run in the 1950s (Clayton Moore starred in most episodes) and Jay Silverheels played Tonto. Credit: Boyd Magers collection

On Location: Raleigh Studios looks to expand into Utah

John Carter Disney Utah

Raleigh Studios, the nation's largest independent studio facilities operator, is continuing to expand its reach across the country with plans to open a studio in Utah even as its sprawling new production complex in Michigan struggles to find tenants.

The Hollywood-based company, which already manages soundstages in Louisiana, Georgia and Budapest, Hungary, as well as closer to home in Playa Vista and Manhattan Beach -- where its A-list renter is James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment -- is working with a developer to build a $100-million-plus studio in Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival.

The proposed 374,000-square-foot project would include three 15,000-square-foot soundstages and a recording studio as well as several restaurants, shops and a hotel with up to 100 rooms, according to plans submitted to the city and county.

Raleigh is seeking to capitalize on steps by Utah to sweeten its film incentives. The state, which has hosted shooting for the upcoming, big-budget Disney release “John Carter,” recently increased its tax rebate from 20% to 25% of in-state production expenses.

Raleigh also wants to capture some business from the Sundance Film Festival, the nation’s most prominent independent film festival, held every January, primarily in Park City. The festival is run by  Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute.

“It’s a great way to extend our brand to the independent market," said Michael Newport, Raleigh's manager of marketing and client development. “We can help them out by providing them with the facilities that they can use.”

The project cleared a big hurdle in January when developer Greg Ericksen settled a long-running legal dispute with Summit County. Local officials had raised objections over the scope of the project and whether it would compete with the film festival.

But their concerns were allayed when Ericksen agreed to meet several conditions, including a guarantee that the development would not harm the festival and would comply with Park City’s design guidelines.

“Our biggest motivation was to be involved in the design of what it looks like because it's quite a bit bigger than the surrounding buildings and we wanted to make sure that it can be an asset to Sundance," Park City City Manager Tom Bakaly said. “We're a resort town and we have a brand, so we want to a make sure this movie studio and other activities surrounding it are consistent with that brand.”

Raleigh executives have had some preliminary discussions with Sundance officials about aspects of the project, including designs for a screening room, Newport said.

Jill Miller, Managing Director of Sundance Institute said “ “We have had discussions with Raleigh to understand what facilities they plan to build in Park City and whether they may be suited to our needs for the Sundance Film Festival.” 

If the plans are approved, construction should begin later this year with the first soundstages opening in 2013, Newport said.

Raleigh is certainly hoping for a better outcome than it has had since opening its studio last year in  Pontiac, Mich., which has been hard hit by the drop-off in filming in that state. 

The $76-million project was financed in part by $28 million in bonds issued by the Oakland County Economic Development Corp.  Earlier this month,  Raleigh missed a payment to bondholders, requiring the State of Michigan Retirement Systems to step in and make a $420,000 payment, according to the Michigan Treasury Department.

The studio’s seven soundstages have been mostly vacant since Disney wrapped production in January of its 2013 release “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” directed by Sam Raimi. Newport declined to discuss specific events that led to the default, but said the studio had lost considerable business last year after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder slashed the state's film tax-credit program, once one of the most generous in the country, and imposed a $25-million cap on it.

“We’re working to bring production back to the state," Newport said.


'Criminal Minds' among TV shows filming in local hospitals

On Location: 'War Horse' tapped veteran trainer Bobby Lovgren

On Location: AFCI's Martin Cuff touts the role of film commissioners

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch in a scene from the movie "John Carter." Credit: Frank Connor / Disney

Where the cameras roll
Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times

UCLA study gives qualified support to film tax credit program

Brad Pitt MoneyballWhile California's film tax credit is providing an economic benefit to the state, it may not be providing as much of a return to taxpayers as an earlier study claimed.

That's one of the main conclusions from a new study conducted by UCLA's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment about a program the state adopted in 2009 to help curb runaway production. The state sets aside $100 million annually for the program, under which filmmakers can receive a credit of 20% to 25% of qualified production expenses (salaries of actors are excluded). They can apply the credit to offset any sales or business tax liability they have with the state.

The UCLA study concludes that the California tax credit "is creating jobs and is likely providing an immediate economic benefit to the state," but finds that some claims about the program's value have been exaggerated.

In particular, the study takes issue with some aspects of a report by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. and financed by the Motion Picture Assn. of America that found that for every $1 the state allocated in a tax subsidy, the state recouped as much as $1.13 in spending.

That LAEDC estimate assumes that all productions applying for a subsidy will leave the state if they don't receive one. However, the UCLA researchers found that some of the productions that didn't get a credit, which is awarded on a lottery basis, still opted to shoot their films in California. Taking those projects out of the mix reduces the fiscal impact to as much as $1.04 per $1 of tax allocated, not $1.13, according to the UCLA report.

Nonetheless, the study, which included a survey of filmmakers, highlights the important role that state tax credits play in determining where they choose to shoot.

"Even though there is likely a small benefit to the state, I think the California film and television tax credit is a worthy program because, without it, in the long run, California is likely to lose dominance in an industry that is very important to the state's economy," said Lauren Appelbaum, research director for the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.

The UCLA study was commissoned by Headway Project, a new think tank headed by former magazine publishing executive Michael Kong. In a separate report he authored, Kong makes several recommendations to improve the state tax credit program, including removing restrictions that forbid the sale or transfer of tax credits to third parties (except for low-budget independent movies) and doubling the funding of the current credit to $200 million a year.

[UPDATE: Christine Cooper, author of the LAEDC report,  said she and her colleagues had made a “reasonable assumption” that the productions that received the tax credit wouldn’t have  occurred without the incentive. “We are happy to see that the UCLA study confirms our finding of a net positive fiscal impact,’’  Cooper added. “While we can quibble over pennies -- $1.04 versus $1.13 in net positive fiscal impacts -- states like Louisiana are setting production records at our expense.”]


Study shows state film tax credit program pumped $3.8 billion into the economy

Hollywood lobbies to extend tax credit for filming

Louisiana's pull on Hollywood strengthens

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Brad Pitt in a scene from the movie "Moneyball," which received a California film tax credit. Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon

On Location: Oscar contender 'The Artist' gives shout-out to L.A.

Scene from "The Artist," filmed entirely in L.A.

As a front-runner to win top honors in the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony, “The Artist” is a rarity. Not only is it in black and white, almost entirely silent and a French director's take on old Hollywood, it is the only movie among the nine best picture nominees filmed entirely in Los Angeles.

The 1960s civil rights drama “The Help,” another potential favorite for best picture, was shot in Mississippi; “The Descendants,” starring George Clooney, was filmed in Hawaii; and Martin Scorsese's “Hugo,” a whimsical tale about the early days of cinema, was produced mainly on a soundstage in the United Kingdom. “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt as Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, was filmed in Oakland and various L.A. locations, including Dodger Stadium.

Only “The Artist,” however, filmed exclusively locally, giving star treatment to iconic Hollywood locations -- from downtown L.A.'s historic movie palace the Orpheum Theatre to the Hancock Park mansion where Mary Pickford once lived -- at a time when many productions are leaving the state for cheaper locales. The $14-million picture released by the Weinstein Co. took the top prize at the Directors Guild of America Awards on Saturday and a day later at the Screen Actors Guild Awards garnered lead actor honors for Jean Dujardin, who plays silent film star George Valentin.

PHOTOS: Where were the Oscar best picture contenders filmed?

“The Artist was not just a love letter to silent cinema, but to the city of Los Angeles as well," director Michel Hazanavicius said recently at the Critics Choice Movie Awards, where the film picked up four awards including best picture.

The L.A. City Council returned some of the love Tuesday when it presented Hazanavicius and other cast and crew members from the “The Artist” with its first “Made in Hollywood” honor. The city proclaimed Tuesday “The Artist Day” in a ceremony at Red Studios on North Cahuenga Boulevard, which represented Kinograph Studios in the movie.

The city's elation is understandable. Relatively few big feature films still shoot in Los Angeles, especially Academy Award winners and nominees. Since 1973, only about 20 best picture nominees, including Roman Polanski’s 1974 movie “Chinatown,” Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and “Seabiscuit,” shot primarily on locations in the L.A. area (excluding animated movies or those filmed mainly on soundstages), according to an awards data base from the online movie ticket service Fandango.

If “The Artist” wins, it would be the first best picture Oscar winner since “Crash” that was filmed mainly in L.A. Prior to that was Clint Eastwood’s 2004 winner “Million Dollar Baby” and 1999's “American Beauty,” which ended a two-decade-plus drought following “Rocky” in 1976.

Woody Allen’s 1977 movie “Annie Hall” filmed partially in L.A., but it was hardly a flattering portrait of the city. When actress Diane Keaton’s character Annie Hall remarks about the cleanliness of L.A., her big-screen lover Alvy Singer (Allen) replies: “That’s because they don’t throw their garbage away, they turn it into television.”

Why the paucity of L.A.-based Oscar nominees and winners? The obvious explanation is runaway production. Filmmakers continue to flock to states such as Louisiana, Georgia and New York and foreign cities such as Vancouver and London to take advantage of film tax credits and rebates.

Best picture contenders “Hugo,” “The Descendants” and “The Help” all benefited from out-of-state film tax credits. (“Moneyball” received a California film tax credit; “The Artist” applied for one but did not receive it as the credits are doled out by lottery).

Another factor may be the tendency of Academy voters to favor movies shot in unfamiliar places far way from L.A., where most of them live.

“It may just be a subconscious thing,’’ said Chuck Walton, editor in chief for Fandango. “The Academy’s choices tend to be films that take you on a journey, outside the L.A. comfort zone. With `The Artist’, everything old feels new again -- it’s classic L.A., but re-envisioned through French eyes.”

Producers of “The Artist” had considered shooting the movie in Eastern Europe to take advantage of lower costs, but Hazanavicius insisted on filming in L.A., using classic Hollywood locations including the Bradbury Building on South Broadway downtown, Fremont Place in Hancock Park, Cicada Restaurant downtown on Olive Street and the American Film Institute near Griffith Park.

“The initial thought was we should shoot some of these iconic locations in L.A. and film everything else in Romania or Bulgaria,’’ said Richard Middleton, an executive producer on “The Artist.” “Then we thought, ‘This is crazy.’ If the end result is that people laugh at the movie because it’s not the Hollywood that people have in their minds' eye, it’s a waste of money.”


L.A. locales star in silent film, 'The Artist'

On Location: L.A. movie palaces gets starring role

Santa Clarita movie ranches corral Tarantino and other filmmakers

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: A scene from "The Artist" filmed at the Bradbury Building on South Broadway. Credit: the Weinstein Co.

Where the cameras roll
Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times

Super Bowl ad mania kicks off with a commercial for a commercial

More than two weeks before the big game, buzz is beginning to build around what advertisements are going to kick off during the Super Bowl.

One prominent ad agency -- Deutsch LA, the Marina del Rey firm that does the creative work for Volkswagen -- has set a particularly high bar for clever Super Bowl spots. Last year it rolled out "The Force," a heart-warming commercial that featured a little boy dressed as Darth Vader who used his "powers" to start his parents' VW Passat. 

"The Force" immediately became a fan favorite. Over the last year, the VW Super Bowl commercial has attracted nearly 50 million views online and won several prestigious advertising awards.

VIDEO TIMELINE: Best Super Bowl commercials

So how does the agency top that?  This week, VW and Deutsch LA took the unusual step of releasing a "teaser" ad for its upcoming Super Bowl spot. "The Bark Side" is a commercial for the upcoming VW Super Bowl commercial.  

The teaser spot continues in the "Star Wars" theme with a menagerie of canines that bark the "Imperial Death March," the ominous tones that introduce Darth Vader. The howling and barking dogs sport various outfits from the sci-fi sensation. 

The teaser has attracted more than 1 million views since going online Wednesday night.

"It's trending faster than 'The Force' did, and this isn't even a Super Bowl ad," Mike Sheldon, chief executive of Deutsch LA, said in an interview.

The stakes are incredibly high for Super Bowl commercials. This year, companies are paying an average of $3.5 million for 30 seconds of advertising time in the big game, which NBC will televise Feb. 5.  Instant polls put additional pressure on the agencies to come up with catchy ads. 

"The Super Bowl is one of the most effective advertising platforms you can have, and it has become more competitive than ever," Sheldon said. "'The Bark Side' was our way to try to stay one step ahead and trump the 70 other advertisers who will be in the Super Bowl. We wanted to get people talking about Volkswagen."


Relativity joins three other studios advertising in the Super Bowl

O.C. native a finalist in Super Bowl commercial contest

Michael Sheldon, CEO of Deutsch LA: How I Made It

-- Meg James

On Location: L.A. movie palaces still matter to film industry

Orpheum the artist j. edgar

The opulent picture palaces and vaudeville halls of Downtown Los Angeles may be monuments to a bygone era, but they are still keeping their ties to Hollywood.

Theaters in the historic Broadway District, including The Orpheum, the Palace Theatre and the Los Angeles Theatre, are featured in several current and upcoming movies, including Walt Disney Pictures’ “The Muppets,” Warner Bros.’ “J. Edgar” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” and the Weinstein Company’s “The Artist,” the silent, black-and-white period romance that opens in the U.S. this week.

The elegant structures are popular among location managers and set designers because of their rich and varied architecture, which ranges from Art Deco to French Baroque and Spanish Gothic -- sometimes all in the same venue.

“These downtown L.A. theaters constitute a local treasure trove of historic and exotic show palace interiors and exteriors,” said Harry Medved, co-author of the book "Location Filming in Los Angeles." “They can double as live theaters, nightclubs, casinos, hotel lobbies or music halls in London, New York, Detroit and Paris.”

Another selling point: because they are no longer used for showing first-run movies, the buildings are readily available for dressing up as movie sets.

“They are an incredibly valuable resource for filming in Los Angeles," said John Panzarella, location manager for “In Time,” the recently released sci-fi thriller starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. Panzarella booked the grand lobby of the Los Angeles Theatre to depict a futuristic casino.

“In Time” is among more than a dozen movies that have filmed at the Broadway District landmark, which was designed by architect Charles Lee and opened in 1931 for the gala screening of Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights.” The building, now listed with the National Registry of Historic Places, was the last and most extravagant of the downtown movie palaces built between 1910 and 1931. Together they formed the core of the city’s entertainment district, which also hosted live performances by artists from Judy Garland to Duke Ellington.

Later, they hosted puppets. Producers of “The Muppets” also shot a scene in the same lobby, where Kermit the Frog makes his final speech on the grand staircase.

Most of the original 19 theaters have long since closed. A handful -- including the Orpheum, the Million Dollar Theater and the Palace -- remain open for special events, screenings and concerts. (Loew’s State Theatre, at 7th and Broadway, is a church.) Several rent their auditoriums, lobbies and ballrooms to film crews, which may be the reason they’re still around.

“Their use as film locations is one of the main reasons they are still here and intact," said Hillsman Wright, co-founder of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, which has been working to preserve the storied real estate. “They are very powerful buildings that were designed to take you away from the troubled world, particularly during the Depression era. They were built to inspire, and they still have that quality.”

Richard Middleton, executive producer of “The Artist,” said the old movie houses are an asset to a city that has suffered from runaway production.

Continue reading »

TV production in L.A. fell 37% last week

Location filming on Los Angeles streets continued to slide last week due to a steady falloff in local TV shoots.

The decline was led by a 37% drop in production days for TV shoots compared with the same time a year ago, according to data from the film permitting group FilmL.A. Inc. Television production has been down 15% in the last six weeks over last year.

Blame New York and the lousy television advertising market.  Fewer dramas are filming in Los Angeles because of more competition from New York, which is having a record year for TV production.  

L.A. is home to dozens of TV dramas like "Franklin & Bash," "The Mentalist," "CSI: New York" and "Parenthood." But, in order to save money, such dramas are filming more days on studio lots rather than on location. Most of the major broadcast networks have been grappling with a slowdown in advertising revenue.

"We're seeing fewer locations per TV permit and fewer days spent at each location,'' said Todd Lindgren, spokesman for FilmL.A. Inc.


TV's ad revenue stream faces cross currents

On Location: Book publishers borrowing a page from Hollywood

On Location: Sons of Anarchy spreads mayhem across L.A.

-- Richard Verrier

 Photo: A film crew sets up lights and cameras for shooting an episode of the television series "Franklin & Bash" on the lawn of Los Angeles City Hall. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Where the cameras roll
Sample of neighborhoods with permitted TV, film and commercial shoots scheduled this week. Permits are subject to last-minute changes. Sources: FilmL.A. Inc., cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Pasadena. Thomas Suh Lauder / Los Angeles Times

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