Tags: Study: | Hollywood | Strike | Would | Cost | Billions

Study: Hollywood Strike Would Cost Billions

Friday, 20 April 2001 12:00 AM

Riordan called upon negotiators for producers, writers and actors "to work together in a spirit of compromise to save thousands of L.A. jobs from the cutting room floor."

The economic study was released on the third day of contracts talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The existing writers contract expires on May 2.

The contract between producers and the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists expires at the end of June.

"As the entertainment capital of the world," said Riordan, "Los Angeles accounts for more than 25 percent of the national output in movie and TV production. We will suffer a disproportionate economic loss if industry and labor leaders can't resolve their differences at the bargaining table."

The Los Angeles Economic Development Commission estimated earlier this year that a strike by writers and actors – which would effectively shut down the entertainment industry – would cost the local economy approximately $2 billion per month.

Riordan said a strike would "devastate thousands of people who are not represented in the negotiations."

The WGA and the AMPTP have imposed a news blackout on their talks, but issued a joint statement in response to Riordan's announcement.

"We appreciate the support Mayor Riordan has given to assure a successful conclusion to these negotiations," said the statement. "The Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are committed to negotiating in good faith a new contract that will serve writers, the entertainment industry and the community."

Negotiators for the guild and the producers held a third day of talks Thursday. So far, they have announced the formation of subcommittees to concentrate on such issues as animation writing, the arbitration process, character payments, diversity, three-person teams and low-budget TV programs.

On its Web site, the WGA said talks so far have focused on "the process for ongoing negotiations."

According to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, the subcommittees are not taking up one of the most difficult issues still keeping the two sides apart -- residual payments.

As the talks resumed this week, continued anxiety about the general health of the economy contributed to a growing sense that the WGA and the AMPTP would be wise to come to terms, rather than risk a strike when the current contract expires.

The WGA may also be feeling a little pressure to settle because of the announcement by the top official of the Teamsters Union in Hollywood that his members will keep working if the writers walk out.

"If it comes down to it, my members come first," said Leo Reed, head of Teamsters Local 399, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

"We usually honor other locals' picket lines," said Reed. "But if there is a writers strike and there is work to be done, I'll support my members."

Cheryl Rhoden, the assistant executive director of the WGA, would not comment on Reed's remarks. Rhoden said the guild's focus is on negotiating a contract it can recommend to its members, and any discussion about a strike is premature.

Negotiators for the producers and the writers met for six weeks earlier this year, but broke off talks on March 1. Both sides have issued conflicting claims regarding the amount of money that separates them, but the major items of contention are not in doubt.

The writers want an increase in residual payments for both TV and movie scripts, and they want to be paid for the use of their work in foreign markets, on cable TV and on the Internet. They also want higher payments for the sale of video cassettes and DVDs.

By some accounts, the monetary gulf between the guild and the AMPTP only amounts to about $100 million over three years – meaning they need to come together over the matter of $33 million per year in a contract that involves payments to writers of more than $1 billion per year.

SAG and AFTRA officials expect to begin talks on a new contract no sooner than May 10. The current actors contract expires at the end of June.

Studios have prepared for the possibility of a strike by rushing production on feature films this spring, leading to a substantial increase in work opportunities for writers, actors and everyone else involved in production.

TV networks have been developing contingency plans for their 2001-2002 primetime schedules that call for a greater reliance on unscripted programming – including more news and so-called reality-based shows.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Riordan called upon negotiators for producers, writers and actors to work together in a spirit of compromise to save thousands of L.A. jobs from the cutting room floor. The economic study was released on the third day of contracts talks between the Writers Guild of...
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2001-00-20
Friday, 20 April 2001 12:00 AM
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