2003 gains will come thanks to strong domestic B.O.

Hollywood showbiz jobs are expected to increase by 9,500 next year and another 5,000 in 2004 after three years of declines, a local economist has predicted.

“The recovery is simply going to get the entertainment industry back to where it was three years ago,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., which issues its regional quarterly forecast Monday. “The de facto strikes by actors and writers in 2001 have had a depressing impact into much of 2002.”

The 2003 job gains will come thanks to strong domestic box office, the resolution of problems for theater chains, a possible rebound in advertising and a weakening U.S. dollar making runaway production less attractive. The industry scorecard will see its grade jump from a C minus to a B plus.

The new jobs should bring the county’s employment back to 132,000 next year and 137,000 in 2004 — near the peak of 137,900 in 1999, as calculated by the state of California.

Kyser said the runaway problem will persist but its impact can be muted by legislative efforts. He also predicted the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., which is under criminal investigation over spending and political donations, will continue to fulfill its basic mission of streamlining the permit process and promoting local production.

Kyser also noted that the state numbers tend to undercount actual employment due to high numbers of freelancers and classification of showbiz jobs such as catering to other service areas. “So many people in the industry work as independent contractors in one- or two-person shops and on a project-by-project basis, much like software development and PR,” he noted.

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