Despite Runaway Production Blues, California Still Gets Kudos

Despite Runaway Production Blues, California Still Gets Kudos


The California film and television industry has seen some discouraging news in recent years.  The number of big-budget feature film projects produced each year in North America is in decline.  At the same time, the majority of such films made each year are filmed outside California because of out-of-state tax incentives.

Given all of the pessimism runaway production has caused among entertainment industry workers in California, we thought it’d be nice to spotlight a few facts for our hardworking supporters to be proud of.

Fact #1: California Rules at the Box Office:

Some good news comes from the newly released 2011 Market Statistics Report from the MPAA.  Among the MPAA’s top 25 North American films, seven filmed wholly or primarily in California, which is more than can be claimed by any other jurisdiction. For ranking purposes, we don’t count films with substantial activity in multiple locations, since no one jurisdiction can claim these projects for their own.

The seven films on this list made primarily or entirely in California include: Cars 2, Bridesmaids, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, Super 8, Horrible Bosses and Hop.

While Super 8 did film on-location in West Virginia for a portion of the production, more than 75% of the filming took place in California. Similarly, a small portion of the CGI work on Puss in Boots was outsourced to India, but the bulk of the animation work happened here.

Collectively, these seven films grossed over $1 billion in North America alone.  The fact that four of the seven films were CGI animation projects underscores how critical the VFX and animation sectors are to the California film industry.

In terms of project count, the United Kingdom came in a distant second behind California with four films: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Captain America, Sherlock Holmesand The Kings Speech.  No other location claimed more than one film to itself. In the US, Mississippi got The Help, New York got The Smurfs, Louisiana got Green Lantern and Connecticut got Rio.

Fact #2: California Dominates US Competition at the Oscars:

We have another piece of good news for California creatives!  In 2011, California led all other jurisdictions in hosting projects that earned Oscar nominations. Could this be because the talent here is simply top-notch?  We like to think so.

With 23 Academy Award nominations (six winning the Oscar), no other jurisdiction came close to California.  Hawaii scored a distant second with The Descendants garnering five nominations.  Mississippi rounded out the top three, with The Help earning three nominations.

The most celebrated film on California’s list was The Artist, which was nominated in 11 different categories including Best Picture (which it won).  Brad Pitt’s Money Ball racked up five nominations.  California-made films earning a single nomination included Drive, Bridesmaids, A Better Life, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots and The Muppets, which happened to win the Oscar for best original song.

Fact #3: California Incentive Projects Earn More Kudos than the Competition:

It would be silly to suggest that film incentives have anything to do with a film’s performance at the box office or the number of accolades it wins.

Nonetheless, based purely on a comparison of incentivized projects from California and competing states, California-made films rank high with audiences and critics.  Many projects that qualified for the California Film & Television Tax Credit did did well at the box office or went on to earn industry awards.

At the box office, BridesmaidsSuper 8 and Horrible Bosses all ranked in the top 25.  No other US state had more than one wholly-produced incentivized film in the top 25.

At the Academy Awards, A Better LifeDriveThe Muppets and Moneyball all earned at least one nomination.  By contrast, Connecticut (Rio), Mississippi (The Help), Texas (Tree of Life) and Hawaii (The Descendants) were the only states with nominated motion pictures.

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