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Upstairs downstairs

Variety editorial

Wherever you look in present-day Hollywood, an upstairs-downstairs mentality seems to be taking hold. From actors, writers or other sectors of the Hollywood economy, the gap between the overpaid and the underpaid seems to be growing. The middle-ground is fast shrinking.

The Writers Guild of America has opted to ditch its annual June release of figures for what guild members earned last year. It is a concession to the fact that A-list writers are hogging most of the available cash, leaving thousands of other guild members with solid credentials to fight over the scraps.

Instead of awarding mid-six-figures to a reputable writer, studios favor the extreme ends of the pay scale. Either they are lavished with seven figures to perform triage on a moribund tentpole or they are rookies pulling down $150,000, a studio’s discount gamble on finding the next big thing.

This does not bode well for the Hollywood economy.

For decades, there has been a well-compensated middle class, comfortably going from picture to picture, building a body of work. (To be sure, the use of the term “middle class” would rankle most schoolteachers or sanitation workers, given the vast sums commanded for a single script.)

The bifurcation of the classes is squeezing out the middle, however. Soon, it could be high time for a Hollywood-set update of “Gosford Park.”

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