L.A. film shoots dip 5% in the fourth quarter. Blame the space crunch

The end of the HBO series "Ballers," starring Dwayne Johnson, and other shows contributed to a dip in filming in L.A. during the fourth quarter of 2019.
(Gene Page / HBO)

The end of several major recurring series including “Ballers” and “The Affair” and a scarcity of studio space helped depress local film and TV production in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data released Friday.

Overall location production slipped 5% in the quarter to 9,839 shoot days, down from 10,359 shoot days for the same period in 2018, according to a report by FilmL.A., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and county.

Television production shoot days slipped 0.9% in the quarter to 3,761 days from 3,795 a year earlier, the report found. While the L.A. region saw a surge in TV comedies and web-based programs, nearly 10% fewer dramas filmed in the quarter as several series ended production. TV production for the year overall was down about 7% from 2018.

Another explanation for the overall downturn: The quarter is being compared to the record levels of TV production the year before, when Netflix and other streaming services were escalating spending on new shows.

As a result, L.A. production spaces are at near capacity and some crews may be leaving to shoot elsewhere, FilmL.A. officials said.

“The space crunch in our area is pushing production out,” FilmL.A. President Paul Audley said in an interview.

California expanded its tax credit program in 2016, giving filmmakers more incentives to shoot outside a 30-mile zone around L.A. That may be encouraging more production in other areas of the state that are seeing a rise in activity, Audley said.


“It’s good news, but we would like to capture more of it, but that requires us to put more high-quality production space in the region,” Audley added.

Feature films generated 1,052 shoot days in the fourth quarter, down 2.4% from the same period a year ago. The category was down 15% for the year.

Filming for commercials, which is not eligible for state tax credits and is the second largest production category tracked by FilmL.A., struggled to match last year’s high levels, falling 8% in the quarter and 12% for the year.

Still, California’s film tax credit program has played a vital role in attracting and retaining productions that may have gone elsewhere, Audley said.

Among the locally-filmed shows that qualified for the incentive program are the FX horror series “American Horror Story: 1984,” HBO’s “Westworld” and ABC’s “The Rookie.”