Los Angeles County has more square feet of soundstages than New York and Georgia combined, and more is on the way, according to the latest report from FilmLA, the city and county film permit office.
L.A.’s 5.4 million square feet of stage space tops that of the United Kingdom (4.7 million square feet), Toronto and Ontario province (3.3 million square feet), British Columbia (2.8 million), New York (2.4 million) and Georgia (2 million).
Even so, to meet the growing global demand for places to shoot films and TV shows, the expansion of soundstage infrastructure in the UK, Toronto and New York vastly has outpaced that of L.A. in recent years. Since 2019, the square footage of soundstages in L.A. has only increased by 4%, compared with 43% in Ontario, 34% in the UK and 33% in New York. According to the report, there’s been virtually no growth at all in the square footage of soundstages in Georgia and British Columbia over that time span.
Read the full report here.
FilmLA says it’s currently tracking 14 new studio projects and/or studio expansions underway in Greater Los Angeles, including the ongoing expansions at the Universal Studios lot and at CBS Television City, and the planned construction of new stages at the Warner Bros. Ranch.
“If all of these projects are built, the count of certified stages in the region would increase by approximately 27%, and square footage by an unknown but considerable sum,” FilmLA says.
This expansion is getting a major assist from California’s Film & Television Soundstage Filming Program, which over the next 10 year establishes a new tax credit in an amount equal to 20% or 25% for qualified expenditures for the production of a qualified motion picture in a certified studio construction project. A total of $150 million is allocated for this new credit.
The report notes that planned and proposed studio expansions and new studio construction in L.A. County include:
- Universal Studios, which is currently constructing eight new soundstages.
- Warner Bros., which is expected to begin construction on 16 new stages in the third quarter of 2023.
- CBS Television City, which is expected to begin construction next year on seven new stages, pending approval from the city.
- Quixote Studios, which is set to open in June 2022 with five new stages and an estimated 98,000 square feet.
- Sunset Glenoaks, which is currently under construction and set to open next year with seven new stages and an estimated 126,000 square feet.
- LA North (The View), which is set to open in the second quarter of 2022 with five new stages and an estimated 107,000 square feet.
- LA North (The Vista), which is also set to open in the second quarter of 2022, with two new stages and an estimated 46,000 square feet.
- Reframe Studios, whose construction is expected to be completed in mid-2023, with three new stages and an estimated 65,000 square feet.
- East End Studios (Glendale Campus), which is under construction with two new stages and an estimated 38,000 square feet.
- East End Studios (Griffith Park Campus), which is under construction with eight new stages and 102,000 square feet.
- East End Studios (Glendale Campus), which is also under construction with two new stages with 38,000 square feet.
- Echelon Studios, which is awaiting approval from the City for construction to begin next year on five stages with 91,000 square feet.
- 8th and Alameda Studios, which is awaiting approval from the City for the construction of 17 soundstages.
- Blackhall Studios, which is awaiting approval from the City for the construction of 19 stages with an estimated 475,000 square feet.
“If all of these projects are built,” FilmLA says, “the count of certified stages in the region would increase by approximately 27%, and square footage by an unknown but considerable sum.”
The report also looked at the occupancy and utilization of certified soundstages in Greater Los Angeles during 2020, which was marked by the unprecedented, three-month-long filming shut down at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Data from FilmLA’s 13 partner studios, which include the six major Hollywood studios and seven large independent operators, shows that despite the pandemic, occupancy levels at their soundstages remained robust during 2020. “As it turns out, not even a worldwide pandemic could reduce occupancy or curtail filmmaker demand for Los Angeles area soundstages,” the report says.
Those partner studios, which currently control 3.7 million of the estimated 5.4 million square feet of certified stage space available in Los Angeles County, account for a total of 68% of the local market.
“Across the properties studied by FilmLA, the average annual occupancy rate remained high at 94% in 2020, up from 93% in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic,” the report found. “While most stage operators reported to FilmLA that they had not lost a single lessee during the Q2 2020 shutdown, those that found themselves with a sudden vacancy also found it easy to attract new customers.”
Other findings in the report include an update on the number of projects shot on stages, broken down by project category, as well as counts of stage and backlot-based shoot days. (FilmLA defines a “shoot day” as one crew’s active use of a soundstage or backlot during all or part of any given 24-hour period.)
“Notably, just as the total number of projects shot on partner stages declined 47% year-over-year (to 898 shoot day in 2020), total stage-based shoot days declined 49.7% (to 6,191 shoot days) over that same period,” the report says. “This is also consistent with the decline in on-location production activity previously reported by FilmLA.” In 2020, FilmLA reported a 48% decline in on-location shoot days (to 18,993) compared to those in 2019.
The report, however, found that its studio partners with access to backlots saw significantly higher levels of pandemic-era use. “Backlot-based shoot days reported by study partners dropped only 15% from 2019 to 2020. Many studio partners reported their backlots as full, owing to the preference of many production companies to shoot scenes outdoors in controlled environments whenever possible during the pandemic.”
“We predicted that we would see a high level of interest in stage and backlot use on return from L.A. County’s 87-day pandemic production pause,” said FilmLA spokesperson Philip Sokoloski. “But that’s not to say it was easy for our partners to say ‘yes’ to filming. Just as we saw with on-location filming, there were new safety-related protocols to apply, parking and people logistics to master, PPE procurement challenges and new costs to absorb. What this data really highlights is the resiliency of an industry unified in its effort to get people back to work.”
According to the report, television series production, which has been driving local demand for both film permits and area stages, accounted for 72% of all stage and backlot-based shoot day activity in 2020, up from 62% in 2019. Along with other kinds of projects, FilmLA’s partner studios reported a total of 307 television series filming partially or entirely on their stages in 2020. Show counts were almost evenly split, with 155 one-hour and 152 half-hour series.
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