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Economic anxiety grows in Los Angeles as Hollywood strikes continue

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Members of the Writers Guild of America have been striking for nearly three months now. They're fighting for better pay and protections against artificial intelligence, among other demands. And Hollywood performers are now two weeks into a strike of their own. As LAist's Robert Garrova reports, with Hollywood mostly shut down, some local businesses are starting to feel the pinch.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: If you guys want fair residuals, say, hell yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Hell yeah.

ROBERT GARROVA: It's a sweltering day outside the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank. Hundreds of striking writers and actors are picketing as passing cars honk in support. Bright pink billboards for the new "Barbie" movie are plastered all around. But even as summer blockbusters rake in hundreds of millions at the box office, economic anxiety is running high among striking performers like SAG-AFTRA member April Rock.

APRIL ROCK: I'm at the level of just trying not to think about it, you know? I'm afraid to check the bank account.

GARROVA: That financial uncertainty isn't just hitting actors and writers. Roxanne Schreiber is the co-owner of Kismet Collective Salon across the street.

ROXANNE SCHREIBER: I mean, I lost my job in production 15 years ago, when we had the last writers strike. But, I mean, I know it affects the dry cleaners, the craft service people, the restaurants. Everybody around the studio suffers because it is a company town.

GARROVA: It doesn't help that Schreiber and her partners opened the salon just weeks before the writers strike started. Most of their clients work in the industry.

JOHNNY AGNEW: It's huge because most people can't, you know, survive off unemployment.

GARROVA: That's Johnny Agnew. He works in the entertainment industry as a unionized studio driver, getting equipment and actors where they need to go on set.

AGNEW: You know, most of us live from paycheck to paycheck, to be honest with you. People are hurting.

GARROVA: He hasn't had work since April, when he says studios started getting worried about an imminent writers strike. He also has a side business renting set pieces and props for production out of his backyard.

AGNEW: Our garage, you know, is right next to us, and it's full of goodies.

GARROVA: Old Santa Claus blow molds, gas station memorabilia and plenty of vintage trailers. But those rentals are also at a halt. Agnew hopes studio executives get things settled soon so he can go back to work.

AGNEW: They need to pull their head out of their behinds and respect the working class, basically, it comes down to.

GARROVA: For its part, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in a statement after the SAG-AFTRA strike was announced that the union's choice, quote, "will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry." They say their offers to both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA include historic and generous pay increases, along with other protections and benefits.

TODD HOLMES: Entertainment, as we know, is one of the top industries in LA.

GARROVA: Todd Holmes is a professor of entertainment industry management at Cal State Northridge. He says it's hard to quantify the exact economic impact of these strikes in real time. But when the writers strike began in May, he estimated it could cost the greater LA economy some $3 billion.

HOLMES: We'd have to increase that number substantially since now we're factoring in SAG. A lot of people are thinking that this goes on for another three months or so.

GARROVA: Local politicians are taking note, too. At their last meeting, the LA County Board of Supervisors agreed to send a letter to the AMPTP, urging them to return to the negotiating table. For NPR News, I'm Robert Garrova in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Robert Garrova