California's traditional film and television industry is in flux, facing competition from other states and upstarts like Netflix, leaders said at a show-business conference in Los Angeles Tuesday.
Held a block off Hollywood Boulevard's bustling sidewalks, the one-day State of the Entertainment Industry drew movie executives and Democratic legislators, many of whom back more tax breaks for the industry.
Saying the annual $100 million in state tax breaks given by Sacramento lawmakers isn't enough to compete, Mayor Eric Garcetti told a packed ballroom at the Loews Hollywood hotel he would seek to increase that amount next year.
"We're going to go up to Sacramento and storm that place like you haven't seen before," he said. "It should be expanded because it makes good business sense."
Curbing runaway production was also a concern to Randall Baumberger, president of Paramount's Studio Group, who noted that Atlanta and London are building world-class production facilities to accommodate an influx in production. Some cities and states also have tax-credit programs in place that are more lucrative than California's.
"We're losing the infrastructure and the crew base at the same time," Baumberger said.
The conference, sponsored by Variety magazine and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, is now in its second year. The chamber bills the program as the most "pre-eminent local forum" on keeping entertainment jobs in California.
The event comes amid an FBI investigation of state Sen. Ronald Calderon over the tax-credit program, a development acknowledged by Tuesday's speakers. Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, told attendees he would address the "elephant in the room," adding that the "allegations are disturbing." But he also said the tax-credit program wasn't being investigated.
"The FBI could have picked any topic from any industry to mount a sting," Bocanegra said. "I want to be clear -- the integrity of the program itself was never questioned. This is the most transparent tax incentive program that California has, and this will not in deter us in any way next year."
The Calderon scandal wasn't the only dark cloud over the industry. Panelists also acknowledged the grim outlook for traditional movie theaters, as fewer and fewer people head out to watch films.
Instead, audiences expect on-demand TV shows and films at their fingertips on the nearest screen, be it a computer or cellphone, said University of Southern California professor David Weitzner, and studios have to adapt as consumers fuel the trend away from movie houses. "It's not our decision as much as it's theirs," he said.
The experts argued many TV viewers no longer want to buy expensive cable packages, preferring instead to watch shows on subscription sites such as Hulu or Netflix.
Ted Schilowitz, who founded Red Digital Cinema, said his teenage son has a nightly ritual -- watch an episode of "Breaking Bad" and play a videogame. Panelists agreed advertisers and content producers need to cater to that increasingly common behavior.
Brent Weinstein, an agent with UTA, said today's millennials are the "first generation of people who won't subscribe to a traditional cable-TV bundle. It's just not the way they like to consume content."
In keeping with the panelists' consensus that more technological advances are in store for home viewers, Weinstein described how in sports programming, for example, an athlete's snowboard could be equipped with sensors, allowing viewers watching a show on ESPN to see -- on a separate screen -- the arc of the snowboarder's movements.