On-location filming in L.A. jumps 37% in December

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Filming on the streets of Los Angeles rounded out the year on a high note.

Overall production activity for on-location filming in the L.A. area rose 37% in December, compared with the same month a year earlier, according to data from FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit film group that coordinates film permits.

The increase is the latest sign of recovery in a sector that has been hit hard by advertising cutbacks, studio belt-tightening and production flight from California.

Such gains were spread across all production categories, reflecting a flurry of new television situation comedies and lower-budget films -- including some that have benefited from the state’s film tax credit program -- as well as continued growth in commercial production.


FilmL.A. will release its fourth-quarter and year-end results next week. The numbers are expected to show a marked improvement over 2009, when production posted its steepest annual drop on record as studios reduced the number of films they released and increasingly opted to take their business to states such as Michigan, Georgia and Louisiana that offer lucrative tax breaks for filmmakers.

Although the migration has continued, California has been able to slow the outflow somewhat with its own film tax credits, which took effect in 2009. The program provides a 20% to 25% tax credit on qualified production expenses that can be used to offset state income or sales tax liabilities.

The state has awarded $300 million in tax credits to more than 100 projects in the first two years of the program, including some that filmed in December.

Among them: Walt Disney’s “The Muppets” movie, which has shot in various locations around Hollywood, and the independently produced “Rampart,” which has filmed heavily throughout Boyle Heights, Echo Park and other L.A. neighborhoods. “Muppets” received approval for a $7.5-million credit, while “Rampart” obtained a $2-million allocation.

On-location filming for commercials, feature films and television in December (from Nov. 29 through Jan. 2) generated 2,658 production days, compared with 1,943 in December 2009. A production day is defined as a crew’s permission to film at a single location during a 24-hour period.

Feature films led the way, accounting for 82% of the growth during the month from the same period in 2009, followed by 47% for television production, which has rebounded following a drop in the third quarter after the cancelation of several long-running TV shows, including the Fox drama “24.”

The turnaround has been fueled by several new half-hour comedies filming locally, including NBC’s “The Paul Reiser Show” and Fox’s “Raising Hope,” along with new cable comedies such as “The Hard Times of RJ Berger” on MTV and Showtime’s “Shameless.”

-- Richard Verrier