LOS ANGELES — For years, the company has struggled with production disruptions caused by the pandemic that began in March 2020. Last year, however, the business of Valentino’s Costume Group finally picked up.
Hoping to capitalize on that chance, the store moved to a North Hollywood space twice the size of its old building in January.
Then Hollywood’s screenwriters and actors went on strike. Co-owner Shon LeBlanc says Valentino’s can no longer pay its rent.
“My chest is tight because money is so scarce,” says LeBlanc, lamenting the apparent lack of urgency in the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers’ efforts to reach an agreement with the unions. “When will the mayor step in and say, ‘I’m ordering you to sort things out because you’re about to crash the economy in Los Angeles?’
It’s been more than 100 days since the Writers Guild of America members stopped working, and it’s been over a month since the actors’ union joined them. LeBlanc’s story is just one of many that detail the effects of financial fluctuations.
Few corners of the entertainment industry are left unscathed.
From studio rental and set production to dry cleaning for costumes and transportation to sets, it’s hard to find a corner of the Los Angeles economy that is completely free of repercussions.
“A movie set set in one day can earn tens of thousands of dollars,” says Kevin Klowden, chief strategist at the Milken Institute, a think tank that studies social and economic issues. “It could be hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the level of activity.”
The last writer’s strike, which took place more than 15 years ago, took three months to resolve, and has been discreetly estimated at $2.1 billion in lost production. The number will be harder to quantify this time around, given how much production costs, locations, and timelines have changed in recent years, thanks to technological advances and increased globalization.
“We tend to think of productions as something self-contained,” says Klowden, whereas in reality a production often encompasses companies or even countries. As an example, he states that projects are often “sent” to New Zealand for visual effects to be added. “The bigger a production, the more likely you are to eventually see a bunch of different tax credits being mentioned.”
Both guilds are trying to solve the problems posed by the dominance of streaming services, which has changed all aspects of production, from the way projects are written to the way they are released.
The writers’ guild said using small staff, known as “mini rooms” (a reference to the concept of “authors’ rooms”), for shorter periods made it difficult to earn a living. Actors’ concerns also include protections around the use of artificial intelligence.
While negotiations between WGA and AMPTP have resumed, there are no plans to return to the bargaining table between actors and studios.
“I really don’t understand what the silent treatment is,” Fran Drescher, SAG-AFTRA President, told the Associated Press last week. It might be a tactical strategy to see if they can wait for us until we lose our resolve and then get a better deal for them.”
Hudson Pacific executives sought to allay concerns about the financial impact the strikes have had on their businesses, while also admitting the reality behind those fears, in an earnings statement released in early August. The company owns Quixote and Sunset Studios, two of the largest equipment and studio rental companies in the entertainment industry.
“We are all largely aware of the shrapnel fragments in the industry in general and other businesses affected. In response to questions about how long the strikes could last, Victor Coleman, president and CEO, warned, “It’s going to be pretty painful. It’s going to be damaging. I think everyone is aware of that.”
Its influence reaches beyond entertainment to every corner of Los Angeles
The indefinite duration of the strikes is affecting any business that is feeling the financial effects, and its effects extend far beyond the entertainment industry. Restaurants, cafes, and even beauty salons adjacent to large studios are looking for a quick fix.
Patys Restaurant in Toluca Lake, which boasts of regulars like Steve Carell and Adam Sandler, has seen a huge drop in restaurant and catering orders, according to owner George Metsos. He talks about lost jobs for obvious clients like actors, writers, team members, but also talks about other regulars who didn’t show up: electricians, carpenters, and drivers who stop by for breakfast on their way to work at nearby valley studios. .
Emmanuel Pelargos, owner of Astro Burger across from Paramount Studios in Hollywood, says the regular presence of writers and actors on strike lines doesn’t offset the decline in jobs due to production halts.
“Sometimes they come,” he says of the watchers, “but mostly to use the bathroom.”
Corrie Sommers, vice president of the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce, says the timing of the strikes hit small businesses particularly hard in the immediate aftermath of the financial recovery after the pandemic.
“The strike… put everyone back again. But this time there is no help needed,” says Somers. “No one says ‘Here’s the free money to save you’. Here’s some money to deliver to you.’ It is no longer there. And that affects everybody.”
Somers, who is also a real estate agent in the area, talks about a large number of clients who were interested in buying a home but changed their minds.
“In the last three months, personally, about five of my buyers have said, ‘I’m going to have to wait until next year because I don’t know what’s going to happen,'” he says.
While many on strike acknowledge the financial burden on both their industry peers and their non-industry neighbors, the authors stand by their decision with renewed vigor on the strike line after a much larger guild of actors joins them.
A member of the WGA negotiating committee and writing on hit shows like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “New Girl,” Luvh Rakhe is acutely aware of the financial costs. But he believes that people from different sectors and professions know that it is necessary.
“I don’t think anyone is bored and happy that their life is interrupted for a moment, but they understand why it happened and what they hope to achieve,” says Rakhe.
Despite the burden placed on people working in the surrounding business lines, many say there is a general sense of solidarity. Valentino’s co-owner LeBlanc continues to underline his support despite the uncertain future of his 25-year-old business. (To answer her question, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass did not state she would intervene, but in early August she said she was “ready to personally engage with all stakeholders in any way possible to help make this happen.”)
Valentino’s has launched a GoFundMe to pay the rent for now to keep the store afloat. LeBlanc is hopeful that if they can raise enough money for next month, they’ll be able to get through the rest of the year with Halloween and the resumption of school productions.
“We have some upcoming work,” he assured the landlord. “We need to bring some money here to get over this hump.”