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Los Angeles Location Production Gains 6.2% in 2016

Variety logo Variety 1/17/2017 Dave McNary
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On-location filming in Greater Los Angeles surged 6.2% last year, thanks in part to California’s expanded production incentive program, the FilmL.A. permitting agency has reported.

With a 5.1% gain in the fourth quarter, overall shoot days rose to 39,605 for the shoots taking place outside studio lots. The feature film category rose 12% to 4,865 days, including a 22.5% jump in the fourth quarter, making 2016 the most active year for feature films since the state launched its Film & Television Tax Credit Program in 2009.

“This report shows that the incentive program is working the way it’s supposed to work — and we should see similar increases next year,” said Amy Lemisch, exec director of the California Film Commission.

Fourth-quarter films backed by the incentive — which covers up to 25% of the production cost — generated 15% of the production. Recent projects filming on-location include Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” directed by Ava DuVernay; “Bright,” “Magic Camp,” “Miles” and George Clooney’s “Suburbicon.”

“It is gratifying to see feature film work and related jobs returning to Los Angeles,” said FilmL.A. President Paul Audley. “Although L.A. now has permanent competitors in this space, the incentive is working as intended in bringing exciting new projects to the area.”

On-location television production also set a record in 2016. Despite a 1.3% decline in the fourth quarter, the category finished the year with a 4.8% gain, or 14,463 shooting days. That gain included new annual records in the TV drama, comedy and web-based subcategories.

The state’s incentive program generated 11% of the shoot days for TV comedy and 39% of the shoot days for dramas. During the fourth quarter, reality production dropped 15.1% to 988 shooting days and pilot shooting fell 58.7% to 45 days. Comedy jumped 18.9% percent to 849 and web-based gained 28.5% to 555.

Commercial production fell 13% to 1,079 days in the fourth quarter and was down 2.1% year-over-year to 5,090 days.

“The overall activity has met our expectations,” Audley said. “The state has shown the ability to bring TV series back.”

The latest victory by the state program, which is administered by the film commission, came in late November when it was announced that Dwayne Johnson’s HBO series “Ballers” would move to California from Florida for its third season, and had been conditionally approved to receive an $8.3 million tax credit from the state.

Relocated series are eligible for a 25% tax credit for its first season in California, followed by a 20% credit for any successive seasons.

Ballers” is the seventh series to relocate to California under the state’s expanded tax incentive program, launched last year. It joins “Mistresses” (which returned to California from Vancouver); “Scream Queens” and “American Horror Story” (which moved from Louisiana); “Veep” (from Maryland); “Secrets and Lies” (from North Carolina); and ABC’s “American Crime” (which recently moved from Texas).

The 2015-16 fiscal year marked a major expansion of the seven-year-old tax credit program, aimed at halting the erosion of California-based production to states with bigger incentives such as Georgia and New York. The annual allocation rose from $100 million to $330 million, and applications are ranked on how many jobs they will produce, rather than being selected by lottery.

The program expansion, enacted in 2014 by California lawmakers, covers five years and $1.65 billion in tax credits. The credit is set at 20%, but producers are eligible for an additional 5% “uplift” if they shoot outside the Los Angeles zone, commit to music scoring or music track recording in state, or to doing visual effects in California.

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