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On Location: Overall filming in L.A. falls 2% in first quarter

Gains in feature and commercial production are offset by a continued falloff in television shoots because of competition from New York and other cities.

April 04, 2012|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times

Feature film activity on the streets of Los Angeles rebounded in the first quarter of this year, but the gains were offset by a continued falloff in television shoots that's due to competition from New York and other cities.

Location filming for movies — those shot on streets and in noncertified soundstages — generated 1,019 production days in the first quarter, up 16% over the same period a year ago.

The city and county benefited from several smaller movies, including the comedy "Coffee Town," with Ben Schwartz, and Millennium Films' "Lovelace," a film about porn star Linda Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried and James Franco that received a state film tax credit.

That was a welcome turnaround from the fourth quarter of 2011, when feature production dropped 26%, according to data from FilmL.A. Inc., which handles shooting permits on behalf of the city and county.

Commercial production rose 11% in the quarter, accounting for 2,309 production days, continuing its strong performance from 2011.

But the increase in features and commercials wasn't enough to prevent a 2% quarterly drop across all categories of location production in L.A.

The quarter saw a 9% decline in TV filming, which generated 4,277 production days, with the biggest drops in dramas and reality shows (each down 19% in the quarter), while pilot production plummeted 11%. The pilot season typically runs from February through April and has been slower than normal even though the number of pilots ordered by the major broadcast networks is up slightly this year (87 compared with 84 in 2011).

The slowdown reflects the ongoing challenges that L.A. faces to keep shows from shooting in other states with strong film incentives, especially New York, which allocates about $400 million a year in tax credits — four times as much as California. New York had a record year for TV production in 2011, with 23 prime-time series.

About 13 pilots were filmed in New York City this year, including a drama called "Trooper," starring Mira Sorvino, and a Showtime drama about the pioneering sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson.

"We continue to feel the sting of last year's loss of television dramas and a softening in the reality production segment overall," FilmL.A. President Paul Audley said in a statement. "At a time when other jurisdictions — notably New York — are using generous film incentives to set TV production records, California is losing ground as the pilot and series production locale of choice."

Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.

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