Film Industry Continues to Slide as COVID Grips LA

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Film Industry Continues to Slide as COVID Grips LA

Production in Hollywood dropped for the second month in a row in December and is expected to remain slow as coronavirus cases surge in Los Angeles.

Warner Bros. TV, Universal Television, Disney Television Studios, CBS Studios, Sony Pictures Television and other production studios have halted production until at least mid-January after FilmLA circulated a Christmas Eve alert from county health authorities strongly recommending production companies limit or pause activity through the end of the year.

Both SAG-AFTRA and the Producers Guild recommended a halt on on-set commercial production in the region on Jan. 3 .

According to FilmLA, the nonprofit that issues filming permits for the county and city, permit applications fell 24.9% from November to December. That's up from the 7.6% dip in applications between October and November.

FilmLA spokesperson Philip Sokoloski said larger budget products like feature films and scripted TV may not resume filming until the middle of this month or later.

"There's a lot pending but no real understanding of exactly when the work will return," he said.

FilmLA sent out the alert on the recommendation of county health officials who were facing zero capacity at hospital intensive care units by mid-December. Sokoloski said public health officials opted not to shut down production as they did in March because "there's a very high level of voluntary compliance" among studios.

TV production accounted for 27% of permit requests in December. A handful of series began shooting locally, including "Insecure" (HBO), "Tacoma FD" (HBO Max) and "The L Word: Generation Q" (Showtime).

Commercial shoots for products by companies including Haagen Dazs, Honda and Mountain Dew comprised 28% of permits issued last month. Feature film production made up just 6% of permitting across 26 films, mostly independent projects, including "Monstrous," "Slayers" and "This Land."

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S.C. Stuart is a foreign correspondent (ELLE China, Esquire Latin America), Contributing Writer at Ziff Davis PCMag, and consults as a futurist for Hollywood Studios. Previously, S.C. was the head of digital at Hearst Magazines International while serving as a Non-Executive Director, UK Trade & Investment (US) and Digital Advisor at The Smithsonian.
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