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Shoots on Location in L.A. on the Rise

October 16, 2006|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

"Ugly Betty" is helping the Los Angeles entertainment economy look good.

The hit ABC comedy about a young woman who works at a fashion magazine is one of several dozen TV shows shot locally, including Showtime's "Weeds" and a batch of reality programs such as "Celebrity Duets."

These productions are helping to power an overall increase in local television, movie and commercial work.

Data to be released today by local film officials show that on-location shooting outside Hollywood's studio gates and all over Los Angeles continued at a healthy clip in the third quarter, rising 7% from a year earlier.

The numbers further underscore the fact that TV production remains the primary driver of entertainment activity in Los Angeles, even as the area loses feature film productions to cheaper locales such as other states and Canada.

The region had 9,930 permitted production days in the quarter -- each day representing a day of work at a location -- up from 9,262 during the same period a year earlier.

FilmL.A. Inc, a nonprofit group that handles permits for on-location production in the city and much of Los Angeles County, compiles the data.

Not included in the numbers are shoots on studio soundstages because they don't require permits. Nonetheless, permit numbers are considered an important indicator of the state of local production.

Reversing a decline in the second quarter, television activity rose 16% over the same period in 2005, to 5,833 production days.

Los Angeles hosted several other new TV series as well, including ABC's "The Nine" and "Jericho" from CBS, along with such returning cable shows as HBO's "Entourage" and Showtime's "Sleeper Cell."

"All of these productions provide work and steady paychecks for local crews," said Steve MacDonald, president of FilmL.A., who had expressed alarm earlier this year about the falloff in TV pilots in Los Angeles.

Locations span the region. "Ugly Betty" often shoots in downtown Los Angeles, "Entourage" is sometimes filmed on Sunset Boulevard and Santa Clarita regularly hosts "Weeds."

Despite the increase in TV production, MacDonald reiterated concerns that Los Angeles faces continued competition from other areas that have lured films and TV pilots with lucrative tax incentives.

Underscoring that concern, feature film production dropped in the second quarter, accounting for 2,423 permitted days, down 5% from a year ago.

Recent feature films shot in L.A. included portions of the expected blockbuster "Spider-Man: 3," "Transformers: Prime Directive" and "Live Free or Die Hard."

Although Los Angeles has been attracting more of such productions in recent years, overall feature film activity in the region remains well below its 1996 peak.

Production in the third quarter, for example, was 32% below the same period in 1996, according to FilmL.A. "You can't discount the toll of lost jobs and local spending when features pass on L.A.," MacDonald added.

Commercial production, which has been down sharply this year, improved in the quarter, with 1,647 production days, up 1% over a year ago.


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