LA-area filming set records at end of 2021, but 2022 in limbo due to omicron concerns

According to FilmLA, the partner film office for the City and County of Los Angeles, the end of 2021 set a robust record for production. 

The latest report from FilmLA showed on-location filming in the fourth quarter of 2021 (October-December), setting an all-time quarterly record of 10,780 shoot days. The number marks 4% above the previous three-month high of 10,359 shooting days set back in 2018. 

However, despite increased levels of production in much of 2021, by year-end the region’s 37,709 shoot days finished below the previous peak of 39,627 shoot days in 2016. This was also below annual totals logged in 2017 and 2018, but exceeded a pre-pandemic year, 2019, by 3.2%. 

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The omicron surge in cases across Los Angeles County is causing concerns for the industry. 

"As we approached the Christmas holidays, which is typically a time when much production ceases, we began to see production companies cancelling permits and delaying production. By the time January started, we saw a lot of companies deciding not to start. We're down about 40% from normal for January, said Paul Audley, the President of FilmLA. 

Audley said some commercials and reality tv shows based on interior locations are still in production. 

"We're seeing some production but we're not seeing some of the larger production right now with the omicron variant impacting cast and crew and virtually everything right now in our region. I think the big difference for us this year is that the industry itself got hit hard. In past years, there were protective measures which pretty much created them [cast and crew] working in a bubble successfully," said Audley.

The "bubble" is not as successful with the contagious nature of the omicron variant. 

"We have great hopes that this omicron variant will crash as fast as it has gone up and people will get back to work. If that happens, we do anticipate the industry coming back full steam again. The California film and tax credit has had an impact on bringing film back to the region so we would anticipate a stellar year once we get past this surge in the pandemic," said Audley. 

Among the major categories of production, the course of the pandemic has had the greatest impact on local Feature Film production. Last quarter, only 907 shooting days were logged for Features, down -17.3% over the Q4 pre-COVID average. 

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