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L.A. filming gets a big boost as virus threat begins to recede

Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
Larry David in the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which restarted filming in Los Angeles in February .
(HBO)

Filming in the Los Angeles region saw a huge boost in activity last month, as the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic began to recede and officials allowed productions to restart.

February saw 777 film permit applications, up 43% from the previous month, FilmLA said in a report published Wednesday. The permits are for productions filming on-location or outside of a certified soundstage or studio backlot in the Los Angeles area.

The surge in production made February the third-busiest month for the industry since the pandemic shut down location filming a year ago, according to FilmLA, the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and the county.

Although location filming remains about 40% below normal for this time of year, the resurgence gives a much-needed boost to the film industry and local businesses such as prop houses and catering companies that depend on it. The entertainment industry has seen more than 100,000 jobs lost during the pandemic.

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“As new COVID-19 case counts diminish and more projects restart production, we are optimistic that the local film economy will soon be back on track,” FilmLA President Paul Audley said in statement. “On-location filming, for months conducted safely in observance of strict health protocols, will surely rise again with the reopening of businesses and expanding vaccine availability.”

Paul Audley, president of FilmLA, answers questions about Hollywood’s return to work and the organization’s own challenges.

The recent rebound follows a decision last month by unions and health officials to allow filming to restart after a winter surge in the pandemic had strained hospitals. Film permit applications dropped from 813 in November to 543 in January.

SAG-AFTRA, the Producers Guild of America and the Joint Policy Committee — the bargaining group that represents commercial advertisers and advertising agencies — agreed filming was clear to resume as of Feb. 1.

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Among the shows that started or restarted filming included FX Networks’ “American Crime Impeachment” and HBO’s comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Several feature films, mostly independent movies, shot locally. Large productions have included included Michael Bay’s “Ambulance” with Jake Gyllenhaal, and Netflix’s “Sweet Girl” with Jason Momoa and Marisa Tomei.

After the COVID-19 outbreak began in March last year, it took until mid-June for FilmLA to start issuing permits again. The number of permits issued rose from 432 in July to a high of 880 in October, before falling in each of the next three months.

Despite the reopening surge last year, on-location filming in the L.A. region fell to a more than 25-year low in 2020.

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FilmLA itself has also suffered a decline in income as a result of the pandemic. The Hollywood-based organization’s revenues dropped to $10.7 million as of June 30, down 20% from the previous year , according to its tax returns.


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