There is an old saying in real estate that there are only three things that count–location, location and location.  Well, in today’s entertainment business, there are only three things that count–the bottom line, the bottom line and the bottom line.   This reality goes a long way in explaining why Southern California has lost its edge in competing for movie, television and commercial productions.

Our great weather and Hollywood tradition simply aren’t enough.  Other places–across the country and around the globe are dangling financial incentives that producers and investors would be crazy to ignore.  Advances in technology make it easy to turn out product any place in the world.

“Show me the money” is a line that resonates with producers and studios.  According to the Los Angeles Times, 30 states are ponying up about a billion dollars a year to lure productions.  A prime example is the hit cable series Breaking Bad, which was originally slated to be set (and produced) in Los Angeles.  New Mexico came up with a fat financial package and the locale and the jobs were moved to Albuquerque., where the acclaimed show has had a five year run.  The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation reporters a 6.6% decline in jobs in the motion picture, television and music business in June as compared to the previous year.

All is not lost.  The Southland still has the world’s most vital creative community and it’s the place–along with New York–where entertainment folks want to live and work.  There is a critical mass of talent and culture that gives us a home field advantage, but we have a lot of work to do to cash in on that advantage.

Los Angeles has a new Mayor–Eric Garcetti–who has represented Hollywood and has a great affinity with the creative community.  In his quest to re-invigorate the Los Angeles economy,  he is making it  a top priority  to make sure that Southern California remains the entertainment capital of the world. It’s particularly important that he flexes his powers of persuasion in Sacramento, where the Governor and the Legislature need to come through with tax policies that don’t drive Hollywood out of California.  Governor Brown, particularly, needs to be a vocal champion.

Sure, it is galling to give tax breaks and incentives to movie moguls and big corporations,  but it is  California’s taxpayers and entertainment industry workers who lose when productions move away because our state isn’t competitive.  Seventy percent of something is a lot more than 100% of nothing.  We don’t have to outbid other states, but we do need to be in the ballpark.

We also need to recognize that the film business is more than  a hundred years old and much of the industry’s infrastructure shows it.  There is a need and an opportunity for major new investment in Southern California studios and facilities.  If we don’t work with the private sector to attract that investment, runaway production will become a stampede.  If we do create the kind of public-private partnerships that are needed,  entertainment will remain as one of the pillars of a healthy California economy.