California recently made changes to its Film & TV Tax Credit Program to encourage studios to bring blockbuster productions back to the Golden State — and based on a new study from FilmL.A., the change is needed.
Only 10 of the top 100 highest-grossing films of 2017 were filmed in California, compared to 15 for Georgia and 20 for Canada, according to FilmL.A.’s fifth annual Feature Film Study. That’s the lowest total for California since the study began in 2013, down from 12 in 2016 and a peak of 21 in 2014.
The decline of California as the nexus of film shoots has come as other states and countries have enticed studios to take their productions to them with tax incentives and advanced studios. Pinewood Studios in Atlanta and London, for example, have become the main production spot for Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios, with recent huge hits like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Black Panther,” and “Avengers: Infinity War” being filmed there.
California, meanwhile, was represented in the survey by small-budget films, some of which had plots set in the state. Most prominently on this list were the A24 awards season films “Lady Bird” and “The Disaster Artist,” which are set in Sacramento and Hollywood, respectively.
But FilmL.A. notes that next year’s study should see a rebound for California productions, as the state government’s recent decision to open up the tax incentive program to films with $100 million-plus budgets has brought several major projects to the West Coast. Among them is Paramount’s “Transformers” spinoff “Bumblebee” and Sony’s Quentin Tarantino project “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Marvel Studios has also returned to California for the first time since 2014, as “Captain Marvel” received a $20 million tax incentive to film in both the Bay Area and Southern California.
“In an age when film production is an established global enterprise, California remains a top international competitor,” FilmL.A. president Paul Audley wrote. “This report reinforces a fact that is increasingly well understood –that a skilled local workforce, robust infrastructure support, and a competitive film incentive are prerequisite for film project attraction at scale.”