Thursday, May 28, 2015

California UpSwing

For movies and television, the data is in:

Amid rising optimism about California’s status as a production center, producers returned to California last year in a big way as the state became the top site for major feature films with 22 of the top 106 projects, according to a new Film L.A. study.

The number of California-made projects — 18 live action and four animated — jumped 47% from 15 in 2013. California was far and away the top shooting state for features, leading New York with 13, the U.K. and Canada with 12 each, Georgia with 10 and Louisiana with five as the Bayou State saw production plunge from its leading number of 18 in 2013. ...

The report noted that the lion’s share of feature production spending in California came from six films — $590 million from the four animated titles (“Big Hero Six,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Penguins of Madagascar,” “Mr. Peabody and Sherman”), $177 million for “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and $166 million for “Interstellar.”

The report also notes California remains well below the production levels of the peak year of 1997, when 64% of the top 25 movies at the box office were filmed in California. Runaway production has hit hard in the intervening period and that figure was 16% last year. ...

For years people have asked me: "What if animated feature work goes away?"

I always reply that costs are only one factor. It's fine that you do them in some other venue for less money, but the pups heed to turn a profit. Pixar had a satellite studio in Canada, the land of free money, but now that studio is closed. Quality control is harder to do away from the mother ship.

The pictures that were made in California in 2014 did so without benefit of increased tax subsidy. Even so, eight movies got the older, smaller state tax credit. Much of Southern California's visual effects work has fled to Canada, but some will return as bigger subsidies kick in.

One word of caution: Cash-hungry conglomerates love free money, and will send some of their work to where the free money flourishes. Grabbing the work back will be a long-tern projects. But California has a pool of talent that remains wide and deep. Over the next several years, that pool, combined with our own version of "Free Cash!" will suck work back to the Golden State like a high-powered vacume.


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