Movie studios tout job creation to lawmakers
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood's major film and television studios on Tuesday began a new push to educate U.S. lawmakers about the entertainment industry by touting job creation in the recession and media's global trade surplus.
The lobbying effort by the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the key film and TV studios in governmental affairs, comes after the U.S. Senate in February stripped $246 million in tax breaks for entertainment companies from President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus package.
In a study released on Tuesday, the MPAA said the entertainment industry employs 2.5 million U.S. workers and production is increasingly moving to states outside California and New York.
The movement away from the epicenters of film and TV is due in many cases to tax incentives that lure producers.
The MPAA said the industry contributes $41.1 billion in wages to U.S. workers, with an average salary of $74,700 for employees with projects in production, which is higher than the national average.
"All this together indicates that this is an important part of the American economy, and we can be a big, important, positive factor to economic renewal," Dan Glickman, chairman and chief executive of the MPAA, told Reuters.
On Tuesday, the MPAA is hosting a full-day symposium for lawmakers in Washington to highlight the importance of movie and TV production and encourage the federal government's involvement in trade issues such as fighting copyright piracy.
Vice President Joe Biden will be among those speaking.
The jobs data is important, the MPAA believes, because in February when film and TV tax incentives were stripped from the federal bill, some lawmakers pointed to the movies' robust box office and argued Hollywood has no need for tax breaks.
"I think it was unfair, and it didn't get much debate at all," Glickman said. "One of the reasons we want to help educate lawmakers is to let people know that Hollywood is more than just weekend box office," he said.
The MPAA's employment figures include 285,000 Americans in the core business of producing, marketing and distributing content. Another 478,000 work in related businesses, including at theaters, TV stations and video stores.
The industry helps provide 1.7 million indirect jobs at companies that do business with film and TV companies, such as clothing retailers, caterers and lumber suppliers.
The MPAA report, which is based on statistics from 2007, notes the industry employs workers in all 50 states. The top state is still California, where the major movie studios are based and where the industry generates $16.3 billion in wages. New York is second with $7.4 billion.
But the report said production has increasingly shifted to other states, including Texas where the industry generates $1.7 billion in wages, and Florida with $1.5 billion.
In many states, governments provide tax breaks to lure film companies.
The MPAA report said that, unlike other industries, film and TV production generates a trade surplus for the United States to the tune of $13.6 billion.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Eric Walsh)