Movie Reviews

Movie, commercial shoots see big drop in Los Angeles as post-pandemic production surge recedes

Filming on the streets of Los Angeles has slowed after a rush to resume production stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total number of shoot days dropped 10.5% to 9,066 between July 1 and Sept. 30 from the same period in 2021, according to a new report from FilmLA, the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and county.

The most notable declines were seen in feature films and commercials, with activity running well below five-year averages, according to the report.

The slowdown comes as Hollywood enters a phase of steep cost-cutting, leading to slashing of studio and streaming outlets’ slates in film and television. During the first two years of the pandemic, studios were forced to catch up for months when productions were shut down and competing fiercely for hot new shows and movies. Now production volumes are easing.

“We’re seeing an expected slowdown taking shape,” FilmLA President Paul Audley said in a statement. “The COVID-19 Delta wave forced an out-of-season production shift last year. That shift led to record-breaking filming levels in the latter half of 2021, so in light of that, this is a modest decline.”

The full effects of the slowdown may yet to be felt.

“We really do feel like it’s too soon to be able to attribute any of the scaling back we see to a cutback in overall rates of production because TV shows and the seasons are typically scheduled out months in advance,” said FilmLA spokesman Philip Sokolowski.

The group estimates about a third of all streaming series are filmed in L.A., and it could take six months before the numbers reflect what is happening in Hollywood.

“We will see an impact if there’s consolidation in that sector, but we think it’s too soon to observe it now,” Sokolowski said.

There were 828 shoot days for feature films in the quarter, down 25% from the same period last year. Warner Bros.’ “Barbie,” Netflix’s “Beverly Hills Cop” and Universal Pictures’ “Fast X” were among the movies filming locally in Los Angeles.

Commercial shoots fell 33% to 1,021 shoot days for the quarter.

With rising costs of production due to the pandemic, commercial production is not shrinking but is moving to other states where it can qualify for tax incentives.

“There isn’t necessarily less product being made, it’s just less of it is being done here,” Sokolowski said. “There are new costs related to production in the COVID era and any ability to recapture it makes a real difference for them.”

TV shoots also have been affected. The TV category was down 10.5% versus the same period in 2021 but remained about 5% above the five-year average.

TV drama shoot days declined for the first time since the pandemic recovery in production began in the second quarter of 2021. TV drama activity from local shows like Fox’s “9-1-1″ and CBS’ “CSI: Vegas” declined by 11.7% year over year, to 1,198 shoot days in the third quarter of 2022.

One “shoot day” is defined as one crew’s permission to film at one or more defined locations during all or part of any given 24-hour period, according to FilmLA.

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