Los Angeles saw an increase in the production of features and television series last quarter, but it’s too early to say if the growth foreshadows a rebound for the city’s entertainment industry.
Los Angeles has seemed increasingly vulnerable to runaway production with the recently announced departure of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” which was lured back to New York with targeted tax credits—symbolic of L.A.’s loosening hold on the industry it spawned.
But there are signs of a comeback. In the first three months of 2013, overall on-location production jumped 17.6 percent compared with the same period in 2012, according to a new report by FilmL.A, a not-for-profit that coordinates permitting for local productions.
“I think the positive signs we’re seeing now are at least partially attributable to the film incentive,” Paul Audley, FilmL.A.’s president, said in reference to the $100-million-a-year California Film & Television Tax Credit Program. “But we remain very concerned about the higher-end, high-value productions that are just not staying here.”
Qualified television series—including ABC’s “Body of Proof” and ABC Family’s “Bunheads”; TNT’s “Franklin & Bash,” “Major Crimes,” and “Rizzoli & Isles”; FX’s “Justified”; and MTV’s “Teen Wolf”—accounted for 3.5 percent of the TV category’s total PPD and 13 percent of local TV drama production.
Meanwhile, state-qualified feature projects in L.A. included “10 Things I Hate About Life,” “Dark Skies,” and “Walk of Shame,” which accounted for 13.4 percent of the quarterly total.
Overall, feature production in the Los Angeles region increased 25.5 percent for the quarter, bringing total permitted production days logged to 1,279. While those numbers are positive, they’re mainly attributed to micro-budgeted films, not major studio features.
“We’re not seeing what we need to,” Audley told Backstage. “Even if we have a good next quarter, the truth of it is we’re not seeing the good money features back in California.”
Meanwhile, television had its strongest first quarter since 2007, with major growth in pilot and sitcom production.
Pilots were up 37.3 percent to 460 PPD, while sitcom production is up 36.9 percent to 608 PPD. Web-based TV production went up 35.4 percent to 539 PPD. Even drama, a category Los Angeles has had a hard time holding on to, is up 22.4 percent to 1,260 PPD.
Audley said it was too early to pass judgment on the TV numbers because pilot season was included in the quarter. “Second quarter will be a much better indicator at least on the television side of how things are going,” he said, noting that by FilmL.A.’s next quarterly report networks will have announced which pilots are going to series and where they’ll shoot.
Meanwhile, Web-based TV production was up 35.4 percent to 539 PPD, which Audley said was positive for the region’s future although it won’t have an immediate economic impact because the budgets for online productions tend to be small. Overall, the L.A. area saw 13,361 PPD in 2013 compared with 11,360 PPD in 2012.