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L.A. Location Filming Sees Worst Drop in 15 Years

Film L.A. says production permits for 2009 were down 19% from 2008

On-location filming in the city of Los Angeles declined 19 percent in 2009 compared with 2008 — the steepest year-over-year drop since tracking began in 1993, according to Film L.A.

The nonprofit organization coordinates permits for filmed entertainment in the city as well as unincorporated parts of L.A. County and other local jurisdictions.

Film L.A. recorded 37,979 permitted production days (PPD) in 2009, compared with 47,117 in 2008.

“This annual report reinforces the need for the positive steps being taken by the Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to attract more filming to the city,” said Film L.A. president Paul Audley.

On-location feature film production posted a year-over-year loss of 29.9 percent (4,976 PPD in 2009 vs. 7,096 in 2008). That decline would have been larger but for the California Film and Television Tax Credit.

The feature category posted a fourth-quarter 2009 gain of 13.6 percent from the same 2008 quarter, thanks to incentive-driven production, Film L.A. said.

2008 marked a low point for on-location feature film production in Los Angeles, and 2009 proved even worse, the group said.

However, California’s film incentive program, which started in July, is proving its worth.

Of the dozens of film and television projects that qualified to receive the state credit, 17 have already pulled permits to film in the Los Angeles area, Film L.A. said. Ten of those were films that would not have been made in California otherwise, and these projects generated nearly 300 PPD in the last six months of 2009.

“The incentive generates rapid returns in both economic stimulus and jobs," Audley said. "With an industry as mobile and responsive as ours, enhanced efforts to improve the environment for filming will pay immediate dividends and help regain our lost market share.”

In other categories, commercials were down 12 percent in 2009 from 2008 (5,292 vs. 6,016 PPD). However, there was some growth in the second half, with PPD increases of 10 percent in the third quarter and 20 percent in the fourth quarter. That may reflect a recovering economy and the willingness of more companies to increase their advertising spending.

Television production fell 16.6 percent last year from 2008 (15,933vs. 19,100 PPD). Breaking that down into genres, reality TV was down 24.0 percent (5,007 vs. 6,592 PPD) for the year. Sitcoms were down 36.4 percent (863 vs. 1,357 PPD), although more may have been shooting on soundstages to cut costs. Dramas were down 8.6 percent (6,154 vs. 6,736 PPD), perhaps due in part to NBC’s Jay Leno experiment in primetime, and pilots finished the year down 8.3 percent from 2008.

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.’s comprehensive entertainment and media industry report is slated for release on Feb. 20.