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Los Angeles film and TV production surges in first quarter

Rachel Bloom

Rachel Bloom in a scene from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." 

(Eddy Chen / CW)

Film production activity jumped 11% in Los Angeles County in the first quarter of this year, thanks to a surge in on-location shooting of movies and television shows.

Total shoot days in the greater Los Angeles area increased to 9,703 in the first three months of 2016, a new high point, according to a report from FilmL.A. Inc., a nonprofit group that handles film permits in the city and county.

The uptick marks a substantial reversal from a year ago when total production fell 3% to 8,707 days.  Feature film activity began to rebound in the fourth quarter of last year.

Long the world’s main film production hub, Southern California has faced increasing competition from other states, such as Georgia, and countries that have lured away business with tax credits for production companies.

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California lawmakers have tried to reverse the trend by bolstering incentives for Hollywood. In 2014, the state tripled annual funding for the state’s film and television tax credits to $330 million.

FilmL.A. officials largely credited the spike in production to the effects of the newly expanded  incentives.

“We’re thrilled to be returning work to California instead of seeing it leave,” said FilmL.A. President Paul Audley. “There’s been some growth in new media, but truthfully, the overall increase is largely due to the tax credit program.”

FilmL.A. credited state incentives with helping to retain four projects in Los Angeles -- including the upcoming J.J. Abrams-produced Paramount Pictures science fiction movie “The God Particle” and 20th Century Fox’s Bryan Cranston-James Franco picture “Why Him?" 

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Feature film production jumped 24% in the quarter, generating 1,145 shoot days. 

However, local movie production is still down significantly from its peak in 1996. 

Television shoots also got a lift, up 19% to a total of 3,944 days, assisted by local productions that were part of the state tax benefit program.

Those included dramas such as Fox’s “Rosewood” and the upcoming “Twin Peaks” revival. Comedies included CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and HBO’s “Veep,” which relocated from Maryland to Los Angeles last year. 

Filming for commercials increased about 6% to 1,523 shoot days in the quarter, following a year of virtually flat performance.

Within the television category, Web-based shows continued to surge, up 88% in the quarter as companies like Hulu and Amazon vie for position in the growing online entertainment space. TV pilot shoots increased about 3%. 

However, reality TV shows suffered a decline of 7.5% to 1,152 shoot days. 

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Television production overall has been on an upswing over the last year due to an increase in demand for premium content as well as greater tax incentives. But the feature film credits didn’t start to kick in until late last year. 

“We’re just now starting to see the benefits in particular from the feature film side, but television production continues to improve as the program goes forward,” Audley said. 

In February, California approved 13 films for state tax credits, including remakes of “A Star Is Born” and “It,” plus the sequel to the New Line horror movie “Annabelle” and the Walt Disney Studios family offering “Overnight." 

  Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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