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On-location production in Los Angeles hits record low

January 13, 2009 | 12:22 pm


As if Los Angeles doesn't have enough grim economic news, here's one more sobering fact to add to the pain: Feature film production on the streets of the city dropped to its lowest level on record last year, according to FilmL.A., the group that coordinates on-location film shoots.

Total days for on-location shoots of feature films fell 14% in 2008, the lowest level since tracking began in 1993, according to FilmL.A., which coordinates film permits in the city and much of the county.  Feature production in the fourth quarter fell 46%, posting its weakest quarter since 1993.

Part of the falloff was due to the one-time effects of the writers strike and concern about a walkout by actors. Studios rushed to  finish productions before June 30th, when the actors' contract expired.

But FilmL.A. attributed the falloff primarily to the effects of so-called runaway production. The group noted that feature film production has been down 10 of the last 12 years, as filmmakers have flocked to other countries and, increasingly, other U.S. states such as Michigan, New York and New Mexico that offer tax incentives and rebates that aren't available in California.

"We should stop talking about runaway production. It's ran-away production,'' FilmL.A. President Paul Audley said in a statement. "California is not competitive in the marketplace. We must create an environment that brings back high-dollar film productions, the thousands of jobs they generate and the revenues they pump into our local economy."

Shoots for commercials also decreased, falling 17% in the fourth quarter and 11% for the year, as major advertisers scaled back their spending amid a deteriorating economy.

Television, however, continued to be the one bright spot for LA. Overall, TV production gained 8% for the year, primarily due to a continued surge in reality TV that  helped offset big declines in sitcoms and pilots that were severely affected by last year's writers strike.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times