Filming in L.A., Battered by Pandemic, Showed Signs of Life in Late 2020

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The number of shooting days for the film, television and commercial industries in the Los Angeles area dropped to a record low last year because of the coronavirus, but recent data suggest that a rebound is underway, officials said today.

Overall production was 48% lower in 2020 than in 2019, and 49.8% lower than the five-year average, according to a report released by FilmLA, the not-for-profit organization that coordinates film permits in the L.A. County area.

The number of total on-location shoot days in Los Angeles was 18,993 in 2020, the lowest production yield FilmLA has reported over 25 years of service to the region.

Permitted filming was on hold for three months between mid-March and mid-June due to pandemic-related filming restrictions. During that time, FilmLA, the nonprofit agency that coordinates film permitting in the Los Angeles County area, estimates that 198 television projects were shut down.

Feature films saw the largest decrease in 2020 filming compared to 2019, with a 55.8% drop, compared to a 40.2% drop for commercials and a 38.3% drop for television, according to FilmLA's fourth quarter production report, which included data for the entire year.

Within television filming, comedy productions saw the largest drop in filming, with a 79.5% decrease in 2020 compared to 2019, versus a 45.8% decrease for drama. TV pilot filming days decreased by 61.2%.

“COVID-19 decimated the traditional broadcast pilot season this year, which typically runs from late February to early May,'' FilmLA said in the report.

However, reality television increased by 12.1% compared to 2019, and grew by 93.4 in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2019.

Total shoot days for television in the fourth quarter even surpassed 2019 levels by 6.2 percent, and television accounted for 54.4% of total shoot days in the quarter, compared to just 38.2 percent in 2019.

Feature filming finished the year down 55.8%, but rebounded in the fourth quarter to approach pre-pandemic levels.

While filming was disrupted, the 2020 film cycle had the most number of new scripted television projects planned, with a total of 215 broadcast, cable and streaming projects. It was the highest number of projects since FilmLA began tracking that data in 2011.

Of the 215 projects, 36% were completed, 30% are pending, 20% were scheduled to film in fall 2020, 8% were pushed to 2021, and 5% were canceled, according to the report, which was prepared with information available as of Aug. 24, 2020.

The number of streaming projects scheduled in 2020 increased by 27.6%, from 76 in 2019 to 97 in 2020. Sixty-six percent of 2020 television projects were straight to streaming.

“As FilmLA reported last year, in 2019 the numbers of new streaming projects surpassed new broadcast projects for the first time,'' the report said. “It can be assumed that a rising number of new streaming shows is a trend that will continue, barring the failure of or consolidation among existing platforms.''

Cable shows also increased by 11.3%, from 53 projects in 2019 to 59 in 2020.

The report also analyzed 2020 filming locations, and California remained the top filming location.

Twenty-nine new broadcast shows were filmed in California, 10 were filmed in Canada, six in New York, one in George and nine in other U.S. states.

For cable shows, nine were filmed in California, eight in Canada, nine in New York, seven in Georgia and 17 in other U.S. states.

California was the leading location for streaming projects, as well, but Canada was close behind. Twenty-nine streaming projects filmed in California, 24 in Canada, 17 in New York, six in Georgia and six in other U.S. states.

Photo: Getty Images

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