Hollywood Filming Returns to Pre-Pandemic Levels

On-location production levels show best quarter since late 2019. But the future filming forecast remains cloudy as COVID-19 cases climb

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Although the delta variant could again restrict overall production, the filming capital of the world returned to being just that this summer. 

After nearly a year and a half of reduced action, new data from FilmLA — the partner film office for Los Angeles — shows on-location production levels reached their highest point since late 2019 during the second quarter this year. The spike coincides with overall production activity driving demand for content creation space, as well as demand for wide-ranging auxiliary services and other office space needs.

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FilmLA reported 9,791 shoot days around L.A. County in the second quarter, prior to the recent surge in coronavirus cases over the past month.

It’s a welcome sign after production was completely suspended for three months last year due to COVID-19 when there were just 194 shoot days. The number of shoot days during the second quarter this year was also 40 percent higher than the first quarter, and perhaps most significantly, about 7 percent higher than the pre-pandemic average in 2019. 

“By almost any available measure, the second quarter was good for filming in Los  Angeles,” FilmLA President Paul Audley said in a statement. “With local COVID-19 cases rising it’s not clear whether that will be sustainable, but the industry’s commitment to community, cast and crew safety remains firmly in place.”

FilmLA declined to predict how the new spread of COVID-19 will impact regional production activity moving forward.  

“Appendix J protocols specific to filming were removed by L.A. County in June,” Audley noted. “Nonetheless, the industry’s robust safety guidelines remain firmly in place and these have so far proven effective for keeping business moving safely.” 

Second-quarter permitting numbers increased across all filming categories — features; commercials; television; and “other”, which includes documentaries, student films, music videos and more. Commercials saw the biggest increase, with a 55.5 percent jump in the number of permits issued. Television saw the most action with 4,913 shoot days for shows like CBS’ “Ghosts”; “The Dropout” on Hulu; “Impeachment: American Crime Story” on FX; “Animal Kingdom” on TNT; and two new Netflix series, “Lincoln Lawyer” and “Monster”.  

Feature films in the second quarter included Netflix’s “Day Shift”; “Hollywood Stargirl” on Disney+; “Kimi” on HBO Max; and Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans”.

Gregory Cornfield can be reached at gcornfield@commercialobserver.com