Los Angeles film and television production hit a record in 2004, fueled by torrid summer results that reflected strong growth in locally produced reality shows.Location production days for 2004 totaled a record 52,707. That was nearly a 20 percent increase over 2003. The results were contained in the recently released year-end tally by the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., a private, non-profit that facilitates on-location production in the L.A. area.But EIDC president Steven MacDonald sounded a warning against extrapolating the healthy numbers. The boom in reality shooting showed signs of cooling off at year’s end. Reality location permits dropped during the fourth quarter of 2004 from the year’s high of nearly 56 percent to 39 percent of overall TV production.“We must not let today’s positive figures blind us to the reality that Los Angeles is the target of an all-out campaign to seize our signature industry,” said MacDonald.Efforts to lure production to other countries continue. Canada’s three biggest provinces nearly doubled their labor tax credits in recent weeks (see ‘Canada Subsidy War,’ page 1) But the L.A. area also faces a threat from other U.S. cities and states that have been offering increasingly aggressive incentives to attract production, according to MacDonald.Those incentives, in his view, have reached a level that calls for a coordinated response from local industry leaders and government officials. “It’s not realistic that California could match these places dollar for dollar,” he said. “But we must make protecting L.A.’s entertainment industry a priority.”Looking back, the largest gain in all of 2004 was in television production, which rose almost 27 percent to 18,257 days, topping the 10-year average. Reality programming led TV categories, with about 47 percent of small-screen production.And there was a welcome trend reversal for L.A.’s share of feature film production. After an eight-year drop, feature film production days in 2004 were up 18.8 percent over the previous year to to 8,707 days. But feature films still remain far below their record highs.“The rise in summer production may well become a new trend,” said MacDonald. “Shows such as 24 require shooting virtually year-round to produce more than the standard 22 episodes per season.”MacDonald also pointed to the proliferation of new programming venues, especially cable, and the networks’ reluctance to rely on repeats as additional factors.
Written by Jack Egan