Griffith Park tops list of most popular L.A.-area filming sites

Griffith Park has been a favorite of location scouts because of its diverse terrain and proximity to studios

And the winner is … Griffith Park.

The city-owned park, whose film and TV credits stretch from the 1915 classic "The Birth of a Nation" to the 1960s "Batman" TV series, is once again playing a starring role in Hollywood.

Griffith Park has topped the list of most popular film sites in the Los Angeles area in 2014, behind downtown L.A.'s Herald-Examiner building and the 6th Street Bridge, according to a survey of permit data.

There were 322 production days at the park last year, according to a Los Angeles Times review of film data supplied by FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles permits for the city and county.

The survey tracks permits for movies, television shows and commercials filmed on location, not those filmed on a studio soundstage, at a ranch or in a warehouse.

Covering 4,310 acres between the hills of Los Feliz and Burbank, Griffith Park has long been a favorite of location scouts because of its diverse terrain and proximity to the major studios in Burbank and Hollywood.

The park, routinely depicted in such TV dramas as "Criminal Minds" and "NCIS: Los Angeles," features a cedar grove, caves, canyons, mountain roads and an iconic observatory that's famously portrayed in the James Dean 1955 classic "Rebel Without a Cause." The 1926 carousel at Griffith Park is credited with inspiring Walt Disney to dream up the carousel at Disneyland.

Last year, Griffith Park's flurry of filming featured the movies "Atlas Shrugged: Part III" and "The Perfect Guy," the Amazon Studios TV series "Transparent" and Comedy Central's sketch comedy show "Key and Peele."

"Atlas Shrugged" was filmed in and around the area's cedar grove, where the crew staged a plane crash scene; and in the Bronson Caves, depicted in the "Batman" TV series and the 1956 movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

"It's got forests, caves, back roads, the carousel — it's got everything," said Kris Bunting, location manager for "Atlas Shrugged." "The versatility of Griffith Park is what makes it so appealing."

Brooks Bonstin, a location manager for the Golden Globe-winning "Transparent," has filmed three episodes at the park, including one scene depicting a ranger's house. The park was a regular location on several other TV shows he worked on, including "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Girl Friends," where it played New York's Central Park.

"It's a great resource to the film community to have what amounts to one of the largest urban parks in North America available to us," Bonstin said.

The Herald-Examiner building on South Broadway also had a busy year, with 232 production days for such projects as the Web series "Chosen" on Crackle and ABC's "Revenge."

The former newsroom has enjoyed a second life as a film location since the paper closed in 1989. In addition to offices, the building has sets for a hospital, jails, a police station, courtroom and a bar.

"Chosen" filmed multiple action scenes at the Herald-Examiner building, using the police station and courtroom sets, location manager Danny Gomez said. "Whatever the production needs, they can match it," Gomez said. "It's an all-in-one location."

Another popular downtown film location is the area under the 6th Street Bridge. The location generated 86 production days last year for such TV shows as the long-running CBS crime drama "Criminal Minds," El Rey's "Matador" and the Fox series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."

Over the years, several movies have been shot at or underneath the bridge, including "The Dark Knight Rises," a sequel to the Batman film "The Dark Knight."

Other top film spots last year included the Los Angeles Times building ("Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "Bosch"), Elysian Park ("Masters of Sex," "The Voice"), Millennium Biltmore Hotel ("Bad Judge," "Hell's Kitchen"), Will Rogers State Beach ("The Big One," "Dancing With the Stars"), Los Angeles International Airport ("Modern Family," "Ray Donovan"), Dockweiler Beach ("The Neighbors," "The Last Ship") and the Los Angeles Theatre, a historic movie palace on South Broadway ("The Gambler," Victoria's Secret).

Overall, it was a mixed year for production. A crop of new dramas and reality TV shows, along with a surge in commercial shoots, helped deliver a 10% boost in location filming on the streets of Los Angeles, FilmL.A. reported earlier this month.

But the results were partly offset the by weak performance for feature films, which saw a decline in activity as fewer projects qualified for a dwindling pool of state subsidies.

Twitter: @rverrier

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