The number of on-location movie shoots in the Los Angeles area plummeted in the first quarter of the year despite generous California tax incentives designed to lure more big-budget film productions from out of state.
On-location feature film production dropped 36.3% from the same quarter last year, down to 729 shoot days from 1,145 days, according to a new report from FilmL.A., the nonprofit organization that oversees permitting in the area.
Overall, on-location production in L.A. declined 2.1% from the same quarter last year as TV shoots held steady thanks to a rise in Web-based productions.
FilmL.A. said possible causes for the drop in feature film activity include the local unavailability of soundstages — TV production occupies much of the area's facilities — as well as an overall decline in the total number of movies being made here because of competition from other locales. States such as Louisiana, New York and Georgia — where a movie based on the quintessentially Californian TV series "Baywatch" filmed — continued to draw filmmakers with generous film incentives.
"Feature production levels are proving highly cyclical and difficult to evaluate on a quarter-by-quarter basis," Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A., said in a statement Wednesday.
The organization noted that in early 2017, there were eight movies shooting in the L.A. area that received state tax credits, versus five such projects in 2016. Among the movies that filmed locally in the quarter was Walt Disney Pictures' "A Wrinkle in Time." The fantasy film was approved last year for an $18-million tax credit, the largest production incentive ever under a program that was expanded in 2015 to bring more movie and TV production back to the state.
California awards $330 million annually in film and TV tax credits that allow producers to recoup as much as 25% of certain production costs, such as set construction and crew member salaries.
Movie production in L.A. surged last year, climbing 12% to 4,865 shoot days in 2016 from 4,344 shoot days in 2015. A lot of the gain happened in the fourth quarter, which saw on-location feature film activity jump nearly 23% from the same period in 2015.
For the most recent quarter, FilmL.A. said on-location TV production declined slightly by 0.6%, with pilot production dropping 15.5% and Web-based TV production climbing 33.7%. The Web-based shows aren't the series seen on Netflix or Amazon, but are typically short-form online content produced by companies like Buzzfeed and other Internet firms.
On-location commercial production was also down for the first quarter, dropping 2.6% from the same period last year.