Advertisers increasing prod'n as precaution against strike

Off-lot production in Los Angeles County jumped 16.1% in January compared with a year ago, driven by a 38.2% increase in shooting of commercials, an industry trade group has reported.

Production days for commercials, according to the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., soared from 469 in January 1999 to 648, marking the highest monthly activity level since March. The sharp rise may signal that advertisers are ramping up production as a precaution against a possible strike by actors’ unions after their contract expires March 31.

Guilds gird for talks

Negotiations between advertisers and the actors, represented by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, are scheduled to begin Feb. 14. Union leaders have advocated a more aggressive bargaining stance than in previous talks.

But SAG’s chief negotiator, John McGuire, said he does not expect a work stoppage and suggested that production may have risen for other reasons. “While it has traditionally been the case that production increases on the eve of a negotiation between the Guild and our employers, there are any number of explanations, beginning with the robust economy, the demand for advertising by so-called dot-com companies and the presidential elections,” he added.

The EIDC, which handles permitting for 80% of off-lot shoots in the county, also showed gains of 13.3% in TV production to 790 days, 9.8% for musicvideos to 168 days, and 1.9% in features to 538 days. January’s figures follow mixed results for all of 1999, when TV and features both declined 8%, while musicvideo work rose 9% and commercials were up 7%.

Local scene

EIDC president Cody Cluff said the new figures confirm trends showing that local production levels have stopped declining after peaking in 1997.

“Hopefully, Los Angeles has weathered the worst of the current storm,” he added.

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