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On Location: L.A. film production slows in the first quarter

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After surging in the fourth quarter of last year, on-location production in the Los Angeles area slowed in the first three months of this year, reflecting fewer feature film and television shoots.

Data released Tuesday by FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits, found that overall production across all categories rose 5% in the first quarter, a sharp slowdown from the 26% gain in the fourth quarter of 2010. (Excluding still photography, industrial videos and other smaller categories, production for features, commercials and television actually dropped 2% in the first quarter.)

The data track filming that occurs on streets and noncertified sound stages in the city and many unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

Feature films generated 880 production days in the first quarter, down 5% from the same period a year ago. That included 10 feature films that benefited from the state film tax credit program, which provides a 20% to 25 % tax credit on qualified production expenses.

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The slowdown reflects the continued competition from dozens of states like New Mexico and Louisiana that offer more generous tax incentives and rebates to producers. FilmL.A. recently launched a marketing campaign to promote the local industry and its benefits to the local economy.

Production days for television declined 4% to 4,701, a stark turnaround from the 50% jump in the fourth quarter of last year. FilmL.A. officials attributed the decline to a slowdown in the production of reality TV shows and dramas.

Commercial production was the only major category to grow, posting a 2% gain for 2,083 production days. As the national economy has recovered, advertisers like AT&T, Wal-Mart and Audi have been spending more on commercial shoots in L.A., which remains the largest center for commercial production.

-- Richard Verrier


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