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Los Angeles On-Location Feature Film Production Slides 36% in First Quarter

Variety logo Variety 4/12/2017 Dave McNary

On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles slid 36.3% to 729 shoot days during the first quarter — the lowest level since 2012, according to a report by the FilmL.A. permitting agency.

The sharp decline in movie activity took place despite eight movies being shot in Los Angeles that have been designated to receive a California production tax credit incentive for shooting in the state, including Ava Duvernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” Will Smith’s “Bright,” Steve Carell’s “Beautiful Boy,” “Sierra Burgess is a Loser,” “Miles,” “Magic Camp,” “Latin Lover,” and “Callahan.”

Incentivized projects contributed 163 shoot days, or 22.3%, during the quarter. FilmL.A. said that there were several factors that may have been involved in holding down feature film shooting, including the lack of sound stages, and promised it will explore the issue more fully in an upcoming report.

“Feature production levels are proving highly cyclical and difficult to evaluate on a quarter-by-quarter basis,” noted FilmL.A. president Paul Audley. “Last year local feature production hit a seven-year high — so trendspotting in this segment requires a deeper dive.”

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Courtesy of FilmLA

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.

The tax credit expansion has led to 11 TV series re-locating to Los Angeles, including four — “Legion,” “Lucifer,” “The Affair” and “The OA” — that were announced last month. “Legion” and “Lucifer” are leaving Vancouver while “The Affair” and “The OA” are departing from New York.

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Courtesy of FilmLA

The agency’s previous report in January said on-location filming in Greater Los Angeles surged 6.2% last year, thanks in part to California’s expanded production incentive program — a sharp contrast from Wednesday’s report, which showed overall on-location production decreased by 2.1% for the quarter to 9,496 shoot days. Local production of short-form Web-based TV projects jumped 33.7% to 508 days, while overall television production slipped 0.6% to 3,944 days, a decline of 31 days.

TV comedy gained 9.2% to 608 days TV Reality edged up 0.9% to 1,162 days. TV pilots fell 15.5% to 223 days and  TV Dramas were off 8.4% percent to 999 days with 304 of those days from incentivized programs. Overall TV production is 10.3% ahead of its 5-year average.

On-location commercials production declined 2.6% to 1,484 days despite production of spots for the Super Bowl. The category is tracking 4.7% percent above its 5-year average.

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