Film industry, movie theaters in LA struggle during pandemic

The local film industry has a long road to recovery following closures and restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data from nonprofit, FilmLA, shows filming has dropped by 54.5% from July through September this year compared to the same time period last year.

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

"The industry is beginning to recover slowly over time. The film industry is a huge economic engine for the region, and like every business that hasn't been present in months, it has had a huge impact. There are 160,000 people in greater Los Angeles whose sole job is in the film industry and most have been out of work this whole time. We're talking about billions and billions of dollars of expenditures that have not happened in LA County because of the pandemic so it has been a major driver of the problems that we're seeing for businesses and governments collecting things like sales tax," said Paul Audley, the President of FilmLA.

The month of October is crucial for the local industry with the planned restart for scripted TV and feature projects of scale, according to experts.

"These are the larger, more expensive productions, scripted television and feature films so we have seen the beginning of the return of that group of productions," said Audley.

Production will also be handled differently due to Covid-19 restrictions.

"Everybody can't gather in the same place and wait. You have to come in shifts and leave the set or the stage and come back. It is a slower production speed, but it is providing great safety both for cast and crew and the community where filming takes place," said Audley.

However, the film industry is still experiencing many challenges even with the slow return of production.

"The full return of the film industry cannot be expected until vaccines are in place and widely available just like every other industry," Audley said.

Movie theaters are being impacted by the pandemic in many ways.

"The movie theater side of things has had sort of a dual impact. The first was not being able to screen feature films in theaters. That has meant that some of the major producers of film and content have gone straight to streaming or other ways of getting their content out to the public. The fact that they haven't been able to do filmmaking means there's now a desert of available film to put into theaters so now we're sort of having a dual-sided impact on the movie house industry," said Audley.

Disney recently revealed it will be making a shift toward streaming which will have an impact on theatrical releases.

However, Disney officials said they still plan to release movies in theaters in the future.

The Plant at Regency Theaters in Panorama City is offering drive-thru movie showings.

For the past several days, the Scream Fest Horror Film Festival has been showing films at the drive-thru theater.

"Tonight is Scream Fest. We are an independent horror film festival celebrating our 20th year. This is day eight for us here at the Regency and we're doing Halloween 4 and Halloween 5 with a Q and A session," said Rachel Belofsky, the Founder and Executive Director of Scream Fest Horror Film Festival.

Belofsky described how difficult it has been for filmmakers.

"It's been very difficult for the filmmakers and the movie industry. Theaters have obviously been shuttered since March. A lot of them are struggling. Covid and the closures have been really bad. It's been wreaking havoc on independent theaters, filmmakers and festivals. Filmmakers who put their blood, sweat and tears into making movies and planned on being in the festival circuit suddenly had that stripped away from them," said Belofsky.

Belofsky said even when theaters can reopen in LA County, it will be difficult to survive.

"There's no sign of LA county opening up any time soon and if it is, it will only be 25 percent capacity so it's going to be really tough and it's been really hard on our industry," said Belofsky.

The final day for the festival screenings is Thursday, but The Plant is still offering drive-in movies Friday-Sunday.

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.