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Warner Brothers to cut nearly 800 jobs

January 21, 2009 6:26:39 AM PST
The recession is spreading deeper into the entertainment industry. Studio giant Warner Brothers announced it will cut about 10 percent of its global workforce.Hollywood has long been considered recession-proof, even during the Great Depression. The film studios prospered then, but maybe not now, maybe not this recession. In the last couple of days, the studios, radio groups and theme parks have all announced job cuts, and this could be just the beginning.

On the storied Warner Brothers lot, where so many colossal films were made, studio workers are worried. The company announced it is cutting 800 jobs, about 10 percent of its workforce. Six hundred will be laid off, 200 jobs that have gone unfilled will be eliminated or outsourced.

"I think this is going to be a little more long-term than they expected because the studios are dealing with the strikes and the economy and they're going to find that it's so much cheaper to get the job done over there and possibly get it done as well," said actor Elliot Durant.

Durant is an actor and extras coordinator for the TV show "ER," which is produced on the Warner Bros. lot. Durant said his job is safe for now, but worries about what happens when production ends in the spring.

"It couldn't be a worse time actually because, you know, we're all going to be in the boat struggling together and the boat, it's already full, so now we're just kind of overloading it and hoping it doesn't capsize," said Durant.

Box office receipts are actually up at Warner Brothers, thanks to its recent hits like "The Dark Knight." But DVD sales have taken a nosedive and the concern is palpable.

Jack Kyser of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation says studio heads running scared.

"We just got some data from Film LA that showed that production of feature films was way down in Los Angeles, runaway production, and so we've got to pay attention to the industry, but it's going to go through the ringer just like a lot of other industries are," said Kyser.

And it's not just the studios. Disney says 600 executives in its theme park division will be offered buyouts. Tuesday, Clear Channel, the owner of KFI and six other radio stations around L.A. said it will lay off 1,850 workers. All this leaves young employees recently hired in the entertainment business wondering what happens to their futures.

"They're going to start using less P.A.'s and less anything we can cut out, and you've got to start somewhere to get up and so it's worrisome that they're going to start cutting out as many jobs as possible," said assistant video editor Sam Zaitz.

It's not just studio and technical jobs at stake. Front-office jobs are being squeezed too. Warner Bros. has plans to eliminate accountants and some information-technology specialists and outsource those jobs to India and Poland.

Eighty years ago Hollywood defied a depression and became the entertainment capital of the world. Today however it is feeling the pain.

Disney is the parent company of ABC7.


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