Film Work in L.A. Down 5.2% in Q3; FilmLA Calls Results An Anomaly

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg speaks during the opening of 13 city blocks of newly created filming locations, described as the largest set construction project in studio history, on the backlot of Universal Studios in Universal City, California May 27, 2010. Much of the backlot, including several blockbuster movie sets and the King Kong exhibit, was destroyed by a large fire
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg speaks during the opening of 13 city blocks of newly created filming locations, described as the largest set construction project in studio history, on the backlot of Universal Studios in Universal City, California May 27, 2010. Much of the backlot, including several blockbuster movie sets and the King Kong exhibit, was destroyed by a large fire in June 2008. REUTERS/David McNew

Film production in greater Los Angeles dropped 5.2 percent in the third quarter of 2019, as 9,226 shoot days were recorded in the three-month period. However, FilmLA, which compiled the statistics, cautioned that the numbers are “at odds” with other production statistics and employment trends.

Quick summary:

  • on-location feature film … down from a year earlier
  • television … down from a year before
  • commercial production … improved, but still down
  • TV comedy and “other” category … noteworthy gains

“Given what we know about the LA production scene, the Q3 report omits much of the story,” said Paul Audley, FilmLA President. “Earlier this month, our research group published a report revealing LA’s significant capture of the scripted television production market. Meanwhile, union officials assure us there are ample work opportunities for local crews. We can only surmise that there is significant filming confined to area sound stages, or taking place in adjoining cities where the activity is not tracked.”

Feature film production, which has generally struggled in 2019

However under-representative the third quarter figures may be, within the data it remains easy to see the positive impact of the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program. In the third quarter of 2019, more than four out of every 10 TV drama shoot days (435 SD in total) came from incentivized series. 

A sampling of recent incentivized projects includes American Horror Story: 1984, Good Girls, Good Trouble, Lucifer, Mayans MC, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, Perry Mason, Star Trek: Picard, S.W.A.T., The Rookie, This is Us, Westworld and Why Women Kill.

Feature film production, which has generally struggled in 2019, dropped 24.7 percent to 980 SD. Film projects brought to Los Angeles by California’s film incentive contributed 7.3 percent, or 72 SD, to the feature category in the third quarter. Incentivized features recently filming in Los Angeles include Bliss, Covers, Revenge and The Little Things.

Commercial production, which has also struggled this year, trimmed its year-over-year losses to just 5 percent in the third quarter, declining to 1,330 SD.

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