As Films Leave, Behind-The-Scenes Hollywood Fades California's film industry has been hit hard as other states lure production crews with enticing tax credits. Hollywood's biggest prop house went out of business last week. Now the studio where Citizen Kane was filmed is up for lease.
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As Films Leave, Behind-The-Scenes Hollywood Fades

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As Films Leave, Behind-The-Scenes Hollywood Fades

As Films Leave, Behind-The-Scenes Hollywood Fades

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block in Washington.


And I'm Madeleine Brand in Culver City, California.

Culver City was once known as the heart of screenland. Lots of classic films were shot here such as "Singing in the Rain" and "Gone with the Wind."

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: That opening credit sequence features a house that is supposedly Tara. It's an antebellum-looking mansion. It's actually the Culver Studios.

And I'm standing right in front of it with NPR's Mandalit del Barco.

Hi, Mandalit.


BRAND: So that was a long time ago. And over the years, a lot of things have been filmed here. And now, I've read that fewer and fewer things are being shot here.

DEL BARCO: That's right, Madeleine. These days, there's a problem in Hollywood known as runaway productions. TV and film productions are being lured away to other states with tax incentives.

You know, I spoke to the head of Culver Studios, Jamie Cella, and he gave me a little tour of this place.

There are pictures of Betty Davis.

Mr. JAMES CELLA (President/CEO, Culver Studios): And Humphrey Bogart and�

DEL BARCO: Cary Grant.

Mr. CELLA: John Barrymore and�

DEL BARCO: Marlene Dietrich.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DEL BARCO: For years, these stars and more worked at the studios built by the legendary producer Thomas Ince.

Here on the back lot and in the soundstages, classics were made, like the original "King Kong," Hitchcock's "Spellbound," and the unforgettable "Citizen Kane."

(Soundbite of movie, "Citizen Kane")

Mr. ORSON WELLES (Actor): (as Charles Foster Kane) Rosebud.

DEL BARCO: And classic television was shot here as well.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Andy Griffith Show")

DEL BARCO: "The Andy Griffith Show" was a staple, so was "Batman."

(Soundbite of TV show, "Batman")

DEL BARCO: But the Culver Studios trademark mansion will soon be up for rent, and they recently lost one of their biggest clients.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Deal or No Deal")

DEL BARCO: The producers of NBC's popular game show "Deal or No Deal" found a better deal in Waterford, Connecticut, where the state offers production companies 30 percent tax credit.

Mr. CELLA: It burns. I don't like it. It was a huge blow.

DEL BARCO: Jamie Cella says losing "Deal or No Deal" was a big deal.

Mr. CELLA: They moved to Connecticut for a tax rebate, that I could give every away for free and I still couldn't make up for the tax break.

DEL BARCO: Ironically, as a consultant for a studio in Brooklyn, Cella successfully lobbied for a 5 percent tax credit to lure productions to New York.

Mr. CELLA: Boy, did I create a problem for myself now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DEL BARCO: Cella says as a result of tax incentives in 40 other states, California has lost as much as 70 percent of its on-location production.

Mr. CELLA: The below-the-line workers, the crews on the actual movie, they don't work if the show leaves L.A.

DEL BARCO: The production exodus affects the entire Los Angeles economy: the caterers, storeowners, drycleaners, restaurants, even Hollywood's biggest prop house, which just went out of business with a huge auction.

Unidentified Man: Lot 169, selling a side table from "Lemony Snickets." Here we got. Hundred dollars and go. One going to go two. One going to go two. One going to go two. Two going to go three.

DEL BARCO: At 20th Century Props, auctioneers bid on owner Harvey Schwartz's prized possessions, including a replica of Howard Hughes's chair, "Austin Powers'" escape pod, and a huge T-Rex skeleton.

Mr. HARVEY SCHWARTZ (Owner, 20th Century Props): Well, I'm really torn up. It's very painful to watch all of these products go up for auction. It's a tragedy.

DEL BARCO: Schwartz says the runaway production situation prompted him to liquidate his entire collection of 91,000 props.

Mr. SCHWARTZ: Everybody is going to other states. Even Detroit offers a 42 percent tax incentive. So, of course, people want to go to Detroit and shoot.

DEL BARCO: TV producer Eric Schotz, who bid on some penguin statues, says the incentives are luring companies to leave L.A.

Mr. ERIC SCHOTZ (Television Producer): Can you blame them? Production people are trying to, you know, squeeze every dollar out of production. The fact that you have to shoot in Ireland or Iowa to get it, but there are tremendous tax benefits.

DEL BARCO: In July, California finally began offering tax incentives to keep films and TV shooting in California. But the new law was a little too late for prop collector Harvey Schwartz.

During the auction, he took a sentimental last walk through his massive 200,000-square-foot warehouse.

Seems like the end of �Citizen Kane.�

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHWARTZ: Rosebud.

DEL BARCO: Schwartz worries that Hollywood will never be the same.

Mr. SCHWARTZ: Most of the really great talent that's behind the camera: the grips and the carpenters who know how to do everything, they're all leaving. They're all moving to other places. They're losing places like me, who've taken 40 years to gather up enough goods to supply a whole movie in one fell swoop. So, it's a real tough, tough, tough, tough game.

DEL BARCO: And actually, Madeleine, it's not the end of the game. We're back here at Culver Studios in front of the soundstage where they're currently taping for the upcoming ABC show "Cougar Town."

BRAND: "Cougar Town" starring 40-year-old-something Courtney Cox�

DEL BARCO: On the prowl.

BRAND: �on the prowl. And, yeah, there are people here getting the set ready for filming. So all is not lost.

DEL BARCO: Just look at the light. Look at the weather. That's why people came to Hollywood.

BRAND: NPR's Mandalit del Barco, thank you.

DEL BARCO: Thanks, Madeleine.

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