L.A. Area Film, TV Production Slumps in Q4

FilmLA
(Image credit: FilmLA)

LOS ANGELES—FilmLA, which is the film office for the City and County of Los Angeles and other local jurisdictions, has issued a new report on L.A.-based TV and film productions that showed local on-location film, TV and commercial production declined sharply in the fourth quarter of 2022, finishing down 19.5% behind its record-breaking equivalent logged just one year ago. 

The 8,674 Shoot Days (SD) recorded from October through December brought the year to a lackluster finish, with 36,792 Shoot Days recorded across all categories by the end of 2022, the study found. This represents a 2.4% decline over 2021 (with 37,709 SD) and a very slight, 0.7% increase over pre-pandemic year 2019 (with 36,540 SD).

The most recent results raise questions about longer-term declines in the area’s film production as more states are offering hefty tax credits and incentives to producers. Overall, regional film production levels peaked at 39,627 SD in 2016, FilmLA reported. 

They also come at a time when TV networks and streaming companies have been cutting back original productions amid increasing financial pressures. That has prompted some analysts to predict lower production levels in the future. 

“The return of pre-pandemic filming levels places us roughly where we were in 2019, which was itself a year of significant production decline. Can we hold here, or will the pre-COVID downtrend resume? That is the question everyone is asking,” noted FilmLA President Paul Audley.

Trends in historical production levels vary by industry segment. 

Among the major production categories tracked by FilmLA, Commercials was hit hardest in 2022, finishing -24.5% below its five-year annual average. The category posted a -33.75 decline in the fourth quarter alone with 828 SD. Commercials finished the year  -22.6% below 2021 (with 4,119 SD vs. 5,319 SD), the report said. 

The Television category, representing the largest component of the Greater Los Angeles film economy, has generally performed well over time. Television production levels in 2022 rest 7.3% above their five-year annual average. Activity in 2022 did slow as compared with the prior year, including a -24.2% drop in the fourth quarter to 3,735 SD. Compared to 2021, Television finished the year down -9.6% (with 16,778 SD vs. 18,560 SD), FilmLA reported. 

Breaking down the individual categories of television, TV Dramas posted a fourth quarter decline of -10.7%, with a total of 1,155 SD. The category saw a -17.5% change year over year (with 4,627 SD vs. 5,610 SD). TV Dramas that shot last quarter included 9-1-1 (Fox), Bel-Air (Peacock), Bosch Legacy (Freevee), Fatal Attraction (Paramount+), Good Trouble (Freeform), Snowfall (FX), S.W.A.T. (CBS), The Rookie (ABC) and Winning Time (HBO).

A total of 338 SD – that is, 29.3% of all TV Drama production in the fourth quarter – were generated by projects receiving the California Film & Television Tax Credit, which is overseen by the California Film Commission.

TV Comedies posted 353 SD in the fourth quarter, for a -33.9% drop over the year prior. The category ended the year with 1,273 SD, or -2.2% below 2021 (with 1,302 SD). A total of 19 SD, or 5.4% of the category total, were generated by CA tax credit recipients. Comedies that shot locally last quarter included Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), Home Economics (ABC), Grand Crew (NBC), Killing It (Peacock) and Minx (HBO Max), the report said. 

The TV Reality category also fell in the fourth quarter, dropping -2.2% to 2,014 SD. It ended 2022 with 10,049 SD—a 5.2% increase from 2021 (with 9,551 SD). The category rests 50.8% above its five-year average for the fourth quarter and 91.9% over its annual five-year average. Notable reality shows that shot locally included Celebrity IOU (TLC), Let’s Make a Deal (CBS), 90 Day: The Single Life (Discovery+), Selling Sunset (Netflix) and Vanderpump Rules (Bravo!).

Feature film production continues to trend away from past highs. By the end of 2022, the Feature category stood -24.0% shy of its five-year annual average. It ended the year’s fourth quarter with 760 SD, a -16.2% decline from the same period in 2021. For the entire year, Feature production saw a smaller loss of -9.6% (with 3,080 SD vs. 3,406 SD), FilmLA reported. 

A total of 339 SD—that is, 44.6% of all Feature production in the fourth quarter—were generated by projects receiving the California Film & Television Tax Credit. Feature films that shot in Greater Los Angeles last quarter included Netflix’s Atlas and Beverly Hills Cop 4, in addition to independent films like Guns and Moses and Billy Knight.

FilmLA’s Other category—which collectively consists of still photography, student films, short films, documentaries, music and industrial videos—declined -9.4% in the fourth quarter to 3,352 SD. The category ended the year with a 22.9% increase over 2021 (with 12,815 SD vs. 10,424 SD). Looking at five-year averages, the annual total represented a -1.6% decline in filming of miscellaneous projects.

(Image credit: FilmLA)
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George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.