California Surpasses New York in Film Production

By Dave McNary

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – California has overtaken New York in terms of production for U.S.-based narrative feature films, according to a new study by . The Golden State generated 62 movies, compared to 57 in the Big Apple.

“Feature Films: A Profile of Production” analyzed 291 live-action movies that were released in theaters and 56 titles that debuted on streaming services in 2018. All films are English-language titles produced by U.S.-based production companies.

Films shot entirely in California included “Beautiful Boy,” “Bumblebee,” “Book Club” and “Insidious: The Last Key.” Meanwhile, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far From Here” were partially shot in California.

Georgia logged the third-highest number of films produced with 36, followed by Massachusetts with 10, Louisiana and Illinois with eight each and Nevada and New Mexico with seven apiece. Internationally, the United Kingdom led with 37, while Canada trailed with 22.

The report also found that California lagged behind Georgia and the U.K. for films with large production spends.

“This is a report at once encouraging and sobering in its conclusions,” said FilmLA President Paul Audley. “On the one hand, it’s wonderful that California locations are so widely sought after by filmmakers. But on the other, our ability to attract the highest-value projects is almost wholly dependent on incentives, and in that space the competition is outspending us.”

New York led in original movies for streaming services with 13 films, followed by California with 11, Canada with 10, the U.K. with six and Georgia with three.

“Runaway production, historically associated with feature films, has been a fact of life for California for a quarter century,” Audley said. “As long as rivals continue to covet this business, we will be permanently locked in international competition for film production projects and jobs. The fact is that we’d love to see more feature work done locally, but the resources required to support that expansion are operating close to capacity. To attract more feature projects white maintaining our leadership in television production will require new investments in incentives and infrastructure.”

Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon” received a $17.5 million tax credit allocation from the California Film Commission in November for shooting the period drama in California. The commission estimated that “Babylon” will generate $83.4 million in “qualified spending” — defined as below-the-line wages to California workers and payments to in-state vendors. “Babylon” received the largest conditional allocation of the 13 disclosed in November from the commission. Warner Bros.’ “Little Shop of Horrors” remake was the second-largest with $12.3 million, followed by “Rescue Rangers” with $9.1 million and Universal’s “Dear Evan Hansen” with $5.6 million.

California’s production tax credit program was tripled in 2014 to $330 million, in an effort to compete effectively with New York and Georgia. It was extended a year ago to 2025 with a credit of up to 25% of qualified expenditures spent in California. Feature films covered under the program have included “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Captain Marvel,” “,” “Space Jam 2” and “Sherlock Holmes 3.” Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” became the 16th television series to relocate to California last year, joining “Good Girls,” “You,” “Sneaky Pete,” “Legion,” “Ballers” and “Veep.”