How have film and TV production companies below the line fared in the post-pandemic economy? Very well, it turns out.
In Burbank, prop house owner Keith Marvin of Lennie Marvin’s Prop Heaven has found that the work of streaming services coupled with delays in finishing projects has kept everyone busy.
“We started several shows that got delayed like this HBO ‘Winning Time’ show about the 1980s Lakers,” Marvin said. “It’s almost like year-round productions and some of them started before the pandemic (days) and customers were shopping.”
He said streaming services — which include Disney Plus from Burbank-based Walt Disney Co., Apple Inc. and Hulu — are the driving force that keeps him and his staff busy.
But accessories stores also face challenges. In Marvin’s case, it’s about finding the right gear to rent to set designers and buyers for TV shows and commercials.
“What made it difficult was the delay in the supply chain of products, most of which are made in China or overseas,” Marvin said.
He will buy items in multiples, Marvin explained. For a scripted show, much of the dialogue is spoken while people eat, requiring tables, chairs, or bar stools.
“If I buy a new chair or bar stool, I have to buy a quantity of at least 30 to get it at a relatively decent price to buy that quantity,” Marvin said.
But what he discovered is that these items are either not available or are coming very slowly to the United States from China and other foreign manufacturing areas, he added.
He hopes to go to some trade fairs this year to buy new goods to offer to customers.
“It doesn’t hurt us now, but it hurts us in the future because you have to freshen up your look,” Marvin said. “But I think it will work out this year and next year.”
Meanwhile, at History for Hire, the North Hollywood prop house owned by Jim and Pam Elyea, last year was the company’s best after 35 years in business.
“The streaming services, Netflix, Amazon and Paramount Plus, are in such dire need of additional content that we’ve been very busy with it,” said Pam Elyea, Vice President of History for Hire.
Last year, the accessories house generated 20% more revenue than the pre-pandemic year of 2019. But that was partially offset by a 10-15% increase in the cost of doing business.
“It would be due to the increase in (items) related to Covid, the increase in the cost of living and materials,” said Pam Elyea. “Sometimes it’s hard to find materials to do the things we need to do.”
However, she doesn’t see the trend of being busy this year.
One of the reasons she thought the prop house had been so busy was due to clients not completing their projects in 2020 when the industry came to a standstill due to the pandemic. So, in addition to getting new projects, the company was finishing up everything that should have been done a year earlier, she said.
“We did a year and a half’s worth of work in a year and that’s why it was so busy,” she explained.