Los Angeles has long been considered the mecca of the entertainment industry, but if a new report by nonprofit agency FilmL.A. is any indication, the city may soon become a TV wasteland.
The report, released on Tuesday, shows that TV production in the area is in a state of rapid decline, dropping 15.4 percent compared to the same period in 2011. TV dramas, once the industry's second-largest subcategory, were down a staggering 39.2 percent for the quarter and 27.5 percent for the year. Less than half of all TV dramas are now filmed in the Los Angeles area.
Hollywood's TV show hemorrhage is largely the result of producers being lured by aggressive incentives programs offered in other states. Louisiana, New Mexico, Michigan, Arizona and Connecticut are just a few of the states that promise big tax breaks to producers who shoot there.
But it's New York City that has most benefited from Hollywood's mass TV exodus. The Big Apple boasted 23 locally shot series for the 2011-2012 season, a triumph Mayor Bloomberg said has surpassed all previous records. Recent shows like Boardwalk Empire and Smash have joined longtime staples such as Law & Order: SVU and sturdy hits such as NYC-based Silvercup Studios' Gossip Girl and 30 Rock.
Moreover, considering the large number of pilots picked up at the upfronts this year, including the highly anticipated supernatural drama 666 Park Avenue, New York City is on track to surpass its record for TV production next season.
Back in California, meanwhile, some local analysts are blaming the production declines on habitual foot-dragging by lawmakers in the state capital. California was a latecomer to the tax-incentive party, with the state's first notable incentive program finally being passed in 2009 by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Now the future of that program is uncertain. In June, a bill to extend the credits was approved by the State Senate's governance and finance committee; however, a similar bill won't be reviewed by the State Assembly until August 6.
Some say California can't afford to wait. For many years, we've relied on television to backfill the hole left by the flight of feature film production from the L.A. region, said FilmL.A. President Paul Audley in the report. Television has been our bread and butter, but with Sacramento's inaction to stem our losses, other states and countries are eating off our plate.
However, the news for Hollywood's production industry is not entirely grim. Feature film production is up 9.1 percent this year, while commercial production jumped 28 percent. According to FilmL.A.'s report, those gains were enough to keep overall production activity relatively stable.
The region's comedy market remains healthy as well, with an impressive 91 percent of all sitcoms still shooting in the Los Angeles area. That final statistic should offer no small comfort. Considering Hollywood's threatened dominance as a TV mecca, many Californians could probably use a laugh.