ABC is set to put N.Y. move on ‘Ugly Betty’

Times Staff Writers

ABC’s “Ugly Betty” is about to get a make-over that has nothing to do with Betty’s bushy eyebrows or shiny braces.

The production is planning to pack its designer bags and leave Los Angeles for the Big Apple, where the fictional Mode magazine where Betty works as an assistant to an emotionally needy editor is supposed to be based. Cast and crew members learned of the move at a meeting Monday, according to several people who were briefed on the situation. About two-thirds of the show’s 150 crew members, including directors, set designers and carpenters, are expected to lose their jobs.

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC Studios, which produces the program, is planning to move the production to New York to take advantage of a hefty increase in the state’s film tax credit. A show such as “Ugly Betty” costs about $3 million an episode to produce and could save a significant amount by tapping into the tax incentive.


ABC executives declined to comment. A studio spokeswoman would not confirm the location switch.

It was unclear Tuesday whether other established TV shows would follow suit.

Two weeks ago, New York’s governor signed into law a bill that tripled the amount of the state’s film tax credit. Feature films, television series, pilots, and TV movies and miniseries that complete at least 75% of their stage work at a qualified production facility are eligible for a 35% refundable tax credit.

The Empire State kicked off its “Made in NY” incentive program in 2005, and since then has seen a surge in production. In 2006, the city hosted 34,718 location shooting days, a 49% increase over the 23,321 shooting days in 2004.

“Ugly Betty” wraps filming for this season Friday and cast members were told to expect to be in New York by June 30 to begin production of the show’s third season.

Although the show’s pilot episode was shot in New York, ABC decided to locate the show in L.A. to save money. A Hollywood studio lot has been the show’s home for the last two seasons.

On Tuesday, some actors found it difficult to concentrate on their scenes after learning that they would have to move across the country to keep their jobs, according to people close to them.