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L.A.'s On-Location Film Shoots Have Dropped 36 Percent In First Quarter

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With the popularity of La La Land, it may seem that Los Angeles is going through a new renaissance as a filming location.

That might not be the case, however. As reported at Variety, on-location shooting in Los Angeles for feature films has dropped by 36.3% in the first quarter of 2017 when compared to figures from the same period last year. According to a report by FilmL.A., a nonprofit organization that oversees permitting, there were 729 shoot days during the quarter—a sharp dropoff from the 1,145 shoot days that happened in the same timespan in 2016.

The figure is surprising, especially when you consider the big tax incentives that California had enacted to lure film production back to the state. As noted at Variety, the 2015-16 fiscal year marked a huge expansion of a seven-year-old tax credit program—annual allocation jumped from $100 million to $330 million. This possibly accounted for the 12% spike in film production in 2016, which saw a total of 4,865 shoot days compared to the 4,344 shoot days in 2015, reports the L.A. Times.

It seems, however, that the momentum generated by the tax credit is wavering early this year.

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What's behind the drop this quarter? FilmL.A. says it may have to do the lack of available sound stages. In fact, this may be taken as a good thing, as it could signify that we're actually glutted with in-progress production. “The good news is that we are hearing about difficulty finding soundstage space right now in L.A.,” Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A., told Los Angeles Daily News. Taken in this context, it could mean that the tax credit is doing its job—it's brought so much production that our facilities are overcrowded (which, as a result, turns away new film production, hence the dropoff this quarter).

“I’ve said before about this program that once the film tax credit had the full amount of money in place and it had been about a year running, which is about where we are, we would see things sort of level off,” Audley told the Daily News.

As noted at the L.A. Times, there were five film projects shot in L.A. in the first quarter of 2016 that were backed by the tax incentives. This recent quarter, eight such projects (including Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle in Time) are supported by the incentives.

With regards to the lack of soundstages, it's germane to note that TV production (which sometimes uses those same facilities) is still robust. There were 3,913 shoot days for television in L.A. this quarter—a mere drop of 30 days from last year's figures.