No Surprise, But Film/TV Production In LA Has Disappeared

Like all studios in Los Angeles, the Universal Studios backlot is quiet these days. (James Bernal for LAist)

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Even if social distancing rules could be lifted soon, film and television production in Greater Los Angeles has plunged so badly that the losses from canceled shooting is "unrecoverable" for the rest of the year.

A new report from FilmLA, which tracks the issuing of permits in the area, said that local television production in the first quarter of 2020 was the hardest hit. Virtually all work was suspended in mid-March. About 200 scripted series had been shot in L.A. County, taking up as much as 75% of all sound stages.

Including uninterrupted shoots from the first two months of the year, TV shooting days were down 20% from a year ago, with comedies down more than 50% from 2019. But local film production, which had started the year robustly, was off only about 6%.

FilmLA analysts concluded that — with a decline of 1,591 shooting days in the first quarter compared to a year ago — even if production were to resume soon, the overall shortfall would be "unrecoverable" for the current calendar year. In February, 1,091 productions were filming locally, before falling to 644 projects in early March. On March 20, they dropped to zero.


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"Our concern extends also to the economic security of local families, including the nearly one-in-five Angelenos with ties to this business and the thousands of small businesses they support," Paul Audley, the president of FilmLA, said in a statement announcing the findings.

The Motion Picture Association of America and the California Film Commission say that the film and TV industry employs about 2.6 million people in the state, with 927,000 direct jobs.

In 2018, the last full year for which data is available, California industry earnings totaled $76 billion. Payments to vendors who supply production equipment and services added another $100 billion.

By some estimates, at least 120,000 Hollywood crew members have lost their jobs, and more than 100,000 actors are out of work. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. reported that among all local workers who have been laid off, those with careers in "arts, entertainment and recreation" had suffered the highest growth in unemployment.