Today, FilmLA issued its fifth Sound Stage Production Report, updating its ongoing survey of Los Angeles area studio developments, and releasing new stage occupancy and use data for calendar year 2021.
FilmLA’s report is made possible by a unique data-sharing partnership with a select group of 16 participating studios, who by entrusting FilmLA with sensitive business information, help bring the local production picture into clearer focus. These partners, which include the six major Hollywood studios and the region’s largest independent operators (see attached presentation for full list) together comprise 33 facilities and nearly three-quarters of the estimated 6.2 million square feet of certified sound stage space available in Los Angeles County.
As announced last summer, LA North Studios in the Santa Clarita Valley and Hackman Capital’s two facilities – Television City and Radford Studio Center – are newly represented in FilmLA’s latest report.
Sound Stage Partners
Sound Stage Development
Over the last year, Los Angeles County had four studio openings – all adaptive reuse projects – and two studio expansions, including Universal’s recently completed eight stage addition.
At this time, according to FilmLA Research, Los Angeles County has 17 studio projects in various stages of development. The 17 projects comprise 155 planned stages and approximately three million square feet of space. This includes expansions at two major studios – Warner Bros. and Fox – and two independent legacy facilities - Radford Studio Center and Television City. Three facilities in the San Fernando Valley, including Sunset Glenoaks in Sun Valley, Reframe Studios in Atwater Village, and East End Capital’s studio in Glendale, are currently under construction and set to open later in 2023.
On a global scale, Los Angeles remains the world leader in terms of overall stage space (6.2 million square feet), but new stage development is an ongoing trend. The UK, for example, is catching up with Los Angeles with an estimated 5.4 million square feet of dedicated stage space. Just three years ago, the UK had only 3.5 million square feet, representing an increase of nearly 2 million square feet over that period. Today Ontario sits in third place with 3.8 million feet of dedicated stage space, followed by Georgia with 3.0 million, New York with 2.8 million and British Columbia with 2.5 million.
All of these competitive jurisdictions have plans to expand existing infrastructure by several million square feet. This could enhance their attractiveness to film producers, especially for jurisdictions that offer generous tax incentives and other perks.
Sound Stage Occupancy & Utilization
The time period under study in this report – calendar year 2021 – was a challenging one for Los Angeles area sound stage operators. Recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic saw shifts in demand for stage space, even as annual occupancy rates remained high, around 93 percent.
Despite high occupancy levels over the past few years, the number of projects shot on participant stages declined by -19.3 percent between 2018 and 2021. Study participants and FilmLA Research attribute this to several factors including the COVID-19 Delta variant, which temporarily shuttered film and television production during the first quarter of 2021. Further, many television productions held their space between seasons or under long-term lease agreements, in addition to taking over more stages per project for production. This translated into less stage availability and subsequently fewer projects actively shot on stages.
Likewise, Shoot Days (SD) on participant stages declined by -18.5 percent from 14,491 SD to 11,808 SD between 2018 and 2021. Television production accounted for an estimated 60 percent of total stage activity, down from 72 percent in 2020. Looking more closely at the number of television series by type of production, this year’s study found that roughly 48 percent of the series that shot on stages in 2021 were streaming series, compared to 42 percent in 2020. The percentage of broadcast series fell to 38 percent, compared to 43 percent the year prior.
The number of projects and Shoots Days on participant stages were down in 2021, but the number of backlot Shoot Days increased by 13.5 percent. Shoot Days for one-hour series increased by over 400 percent between 2018 and 2021, feature film days were up by 112.5 percent, and half-hour series by 14.5 percent. Collectively, these three categories accounted for 85 percent of all backlot filming, likely due to COVID-19 safety precautions and desire to shoot in a controlled environment.
Reviewing the 2021 findings in 2023, study participants report to FilmLA that their business environment continues to evolve. Studio occupancy levels, while still high, will likely see a drop from prior years when FilmLA issues its next planned update (featuring 2022 data) this fall.
Participating studios also report that while the number of stages occupied per project seems to be increasing, an increase in regional stage inventory and forecasted reduction in the number of streaming series in production will make it easier for LA-based producers to lease a stage when one is needed.
“The present slowdown in production notwithstanding, Los Angeles cannot afford to lose its competitive edge when it comes to sound stages and other production infrastructure,” observed FilmLA President Paul Audley. “Local studio expansions and the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program are prerequisites for sustaining the high level of production we have in LA, and for growing it further.”
FILML.A., INC® is a not-for-profit organization and the official film office of the City and County of Los Angeles, among an ever-increasing roster of local municipalities. Through expedited permit processing, comprehensive community relations, film policy analysis and other services, FilmLA works to streamline and enhance the on-location filmmaking process for communities and content creators, to ensure the Greater Los Angeles economy continues to thrive.
Integral to FilmLA’s work is ongoing research into the benefits that local filming brings to the Los Angeles region. To that end, we maintain an internal research division devoted to the production, collection and dissemination of information regarding the U.S. film production economy and global production trends.
Provided you cite FilmLA as your source, you are welcome to use all information, charts, graphs, etc. that appear in our reports.