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10/9/2003

Local movie filming drops dramatically for month
By Greg Hernandez
Staff Writer

Los Angeles suffered a 55.6 percent plunge in location shooting for feature films in September compared with a year ago, according to figures released Friday by the Entertainment Industry Development Corp.

Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., believes "runaway production" continues to be problematic because combating out-of-state filming is not a priority for cost-conscious studios.

"These filming numbers speak to the problems runaway production are causing us," Kyser said. "The number of films in preparation is running at a high level. Why aren't they being shot on the streets of Los Angeles?"

EIDC officials attribute the decline more to a remarkably robust September 2002 than to any sudden loss in local production, although Los Angeles is losing many independently financed films to foreign countries, where they can be produced for a cheaper cost, according to EIDC Senior Vice President Kathleen Milnes.

"It looks like they are just ramping up a little late this fall, but we are expecting some uptick in our numbers," Milnes said.

Despite the dramatic dip last month, overall filming year-to-date is less than 1 percent behind 2002 figures and October has already been much stronger for feature films.

Among the films in local production this month are the Tom Cruise dramatic-thriller "Collateral"; the drama "Terminal," starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones; the Steve Martin romantic comedy "Shopgirl"; and the Ben Stiller comedy "Underdogs."

Also shooting locally are the Martin Scorsese-directed drama "The Aviator," with Leonardo DiCaprio; the action-comedy "Taxi," starring Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon; and the thriller "Constantine," starring Keanu Reeves.

The feature film drop contributed mightily to an overall 20.8 percent decline in filming in the Los Angeles area -- the steepest drop all year -- and television commercial and music video production was also slightly down. The one bright spot in September's numbers is television, which recorded 1,381 days during the month compared with 1,281 the year before.

"Television is pretty much supplanting features right now because of the demand for original programming across all television platforms from broadcast networks to cable and pay cable," Milnes said.

Greg Hernandez, (818) 713-3758 greg.hernandez@dailynews.com