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ON LOCATION

2012 L.A. film shoots for TV dramas plummet while movies rebound

January 08, 2013|By Richard Verrier

Filming on the streets of Los Angeles rose 4.7% in 2012 from a year earlier, thanks to a flurry of shoots for sitcoms and commercials and a modest increase in feature film activity.

But the year also saw a historic falloff in local production in the all-important TV drama category, as New York and other states grabbed a larger share of the business, according to a report by FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and the county.

Production of one-hour dramas plummeted 20% in 2012 -- the largest annual decline on record -- reinforcing concerns among industry officials that cost-conscious producers increasingly are taking their business to tax-friendly production havens in New York, North Carolina, Georgia and other states.

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Television dramas such as "CSI" and "Criminal Minds" have long been mainstays of the local entertainment economy, helping to offset migration of major Hollywood movies to other locales. 

But a survey by FilmL.A. last year found that only 22 one-hour drama pilots were produced locally, with L.A. accounting for just 29% of all pilots produced for the 2012 season, down from 63% in 2007.

"Last year saw our industry rocked by dramatic changes in the local production landscape,'' FilmL.A. President Paul Audley said in a statement. "We also saw a record number of new TV dramas shot out of state, resulting in negative consequences."

New York hosted more than half a dozen new network dramas in 2012, while Canadian cities Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal also picked up several new broadcast dramas.

Dramas are coveted by local economists because they employ bigger crews and have larger budgets than comedies and reality-TV shows. 

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Sitcoms, which have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, saw a 53% jump in production activity last year, while production of reality-TV programs dropped 12%, according to the FilmL.A. report, which tracks filming on streets and noncertified soundstages.

Commercial production enjoyed a strong year, jumping 14% in production days, fueled partly by an increase in Web-based commercials, which accounted for nearly 8% of the category, up from 1.7% in 2008.

Feature films recovered some lost ground, posting a 3.7% increase in production days last year. The gain represented the category's best performance since 2008. Projects driving significant activity included "Star Trek Into Darkness" and Warner Bros.' upcoming "Gangster Squad," which received a state tax credit. State tax incentive projects, however, accounted for just 6% of all production days for feature films permitted to shoot in L.A. in 2012.

State lawmakers last year approved a two-year extension of California's film and television tax credit program, which allocates $100 million annually to filmmakers who qualify. That was short of the five-year extension the industry sought.

"If we seek a more secure future for filming in Los Angeles, we must continue to innovate and expand upon the programs proven to attract new projects to California," Audley said.

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