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Production Days in L.A. Rise 4% in '05

Film, commercial and TV shoots set combined record but officials note that growth is slowing.

January 30, 2006|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

Film, television and commercial production in Los Angeles set a combined record in 2005 for the second straight year, with TV leading the way and movie shoots continuing to rebound.

But local film officials, who are pushing for state tax credits to keep productions from moving elsewhere, downplayed the milestone. They noted that growth is slowing, with production still vulnerable to poaching by other states and countries offering financial incentives.

The number of production days -- one day representing a day of work at a single location -- totaled 54,876 in 2005, surpassing 2004's level by 4%, according to Film L.A., which coordinates film permits in the city and unincorporated areas of the county.

Film officials, however, called last year's modest increase a "dull sequel" to 2004, when overall local production soared 19%.

"It's a huge drop-off from what we had [in 2004]," said Film L.A. President Steve MacDonald. "These numbers aren't something that we should be proud of at a time when other states are continually becoming more and more aggressive in luring production away."

Expected to be released today, the numbers tally shoots in public places, where permits are required, and don't include activity on studio lots, where authorization isn't needed.

Nonetheless, they provide an important barometer of the health of the local entertainment economy, which generates an estimated $28 billion in revenue.

Feature films accounted for 9,518 production days in 2005, up 9% over 2004. The increase marks the second consecutive rise for movie production, which declined from 1997 to 2003 as cost-conscious studios tightened their output and chose to shoot films in cheaper locales.

The activity remains well below the peak of 13,980 in 1996. With some exceptions, notably "Mission: Impossible III," most big-budget features are being filmed outside of Los Angeles, MacDonald said.

Television production remained the primary driver of local production, accounting for a record 18,740 days, fueled by reality TV shows and a steady supply of new and existing TV dramas. Such shows as "24" "Monk" and "The Shield" are shot in Los Angeles.

However, the 3% increase in TV activity was a big drop from last year's 27% surge, Film L.A. noted.

MacDonald said early reports suggested last year's frenzied TV pilot shooting activity would cool this year, although there was no consensus on whether that would happen.

"The people I've talked to have said they foresee the largest pilot season in some time," said Kathleen Milnes, president of the Entertainment Economy Institute, a nonprofit research institute.

Commercial producers occupied 6,983 production days, up 4% from 2004.

Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., echoed MacDonald's concern that competition from other states and countries was eating away at Los Angeles' entertainment economy, which was already threatened by slower DVD sales growth and a lethargic box office.

Longtime competitors such as Canada have been joined by about 20 states such as Louisiana, Illinois and New Mexico that enacted aggressive tax incentives to lure productions away from Los Angeles.

"Other states have tasted blood," Kyser said.

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