Hollywood on Lockdown: How L.A. Quickly Lost 14,000 Entertainment Jobs as the Pandemic Spread

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

Hollywood on Lockdown: How L.A. Quickly Lost 14,000 Entertainment Jobs as the Pandemic Spread

Hollywood, an economic engine that has powered Los Angeles since the dawn of television screens and movie cameras, has been devastated by stay-at-home orders. With production at a standstill and sports halted, mass layoffs and unemployment have stopped the show.

Studios, theaters, production companies and entertainment venues have laid off or furloughed more than 14,000 workers in Los Angeles County over less than two months, according to state filings. The April and May records reflect only a sliver of the job losses in the entertainment industry, but they provide a window into just how widespread the pain has been felt by workers from Disney to independent production studios and sports networks.

One of the hardest hit employers, according to documents from the state's Economic Development Department, was the Los Angeles office of Fox Sports Productions, where 3,595 people were temporarily laid off at the end of April. The Labor Department reported Thursday national filings for unemployment claims totaled just shy of 3 million for the most recent reporting period, bringing the total to 36.5 million since the pandemic forced states into lockdown.

At Paramount Pictures, a subsidiary of ViacomCBS, 638 people were furloughed in late April and early May.

The long list also includes Sony Pictures and NBCUniversal. Even one of Tinseltown's strongest unions, the 160,000-member Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Arts, had to temporarily let go of 27 workers.

A look at some of the production companies that experienced temporary layoffs in April and May.

In mid-March the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which includes cinematographers and other below-the-line Hollywood workers, said at least 120,000 of their 150,000 members lost jobs.

All told, it's been a serious economic blow to the region. Last week Mayor Eric Garcetti said he is creating a working group to reopen industries including film and television.

The entertainment industry not only defines Los Angeles in the national imagination, but according to the Otis College Report, it employs around 258,000 people and fuels about a quarter of the region's economy - from the talent in front of the camera to the florists, caterers and lighting crews that serve the industry.

The data doesn't reflect the many contractors the Hollywood machine depends on, including writers, performers and others that work on on a project-by-project basis, noted Gene Del Vecchio, author of Creating Blockbusters and an adjunct professor at USC Marshall School of Business.

"When you look at studio layoffs, you're looking at a fraction of the people that have been hit," he said.

Between mid-March and June, Del Vecchio estimated that with theaters closed, Hollywood could lose about $3.8 billion at the box office.

"Where does that money go? Most of it goes to pay independent production companies. Even those hire a lot of independent contractors. All those people that we are talking about are flying under the radar."

FOX Sports Skybox: back and bettermedia.defense.gov

The state's data also doesn't include companies with fewer than 75 employees, or those that have yet to report. The latter includes Disney, which has said it will pink-slip 100,000 workers - nearly half its workforce, as all of its theme parks — save the slowly reopening Shanghai park — remain closed. The future of the Happiest Place on Earth is murky, with most analysts thinking its corporate might will help it to weather the crisis, but with little clarity about how long the pain will last.

Released daily, the state filings offer a window into the depth of the crisis in the city that can't be gleaned from local unemployment number, which lag behind national figures. California won't produce detailed county-specific unemployment data for March until next Friday.

"There are so many people that live off of Hollywood," said Ivette Rodriguez, founder of American Entertainment Marketing, a Venice-based public relations firm specializing in film and music for the Latin market. Since stay-at-home orders took effect, her business has dried up.

"Right now you can't have conversations with studios," she said. "They are having their own troubles. It's a trying situation."

Although Rodriguez's business has stopped, her situation is unlikely to appear in any of the data as she hasn't collected unemployment or qualified for a loan.

File:Walt Disney Studios ParkWikimedia Commons

"There's a lot of independent people that do what I do that will never be counted," she said. "We service Hollywood."

Rodriguez, who has done publicity for films from Disney and Netflix including Roma, the Academy Award-winning film by director Alfonso Cuarón and more recently Call of the Wild, said she's trying to diversify her two-decade old business to gaming and other platforms.

The most vulnerable jobs in the industry have been "the jobs where people are on-site doing the actual production," media analyst Dan Rayburn told dot.LA. In February there were 1,091 local film productions, according to FilmLA. By March 20, the day filming was halted, there were zero.

When production first shut down, writing jobs were widely considered relatively safe, since writers' rooms could operate virtually; but Rayburn noted that writers are now being laid off, too, with less content set for production.

And things may get worse before they get better.

Pre- and post-production roles that have been done remotely since before the pandemic have also been viewed as safer, but as the pandemic wears on, the amount of content for those roles to work on will shrink.

"That may mean a new wave of job losses," observed Rachel McCallister, Chair of MPRM Communications, a public relations firm with clients across the entertainment industry.

As for when and and if the lost jobs will return, that remains anyone's guess: "Nobody knows, because we don't know when stuff will get back into production," Rayburn said.

Numerous efforts have emerged around Hollywood to dampen the carnage. Netflix, which is increasingly entrenching itself in Los Angeles, set up a $100 million relief fund in mid-March, some of which went to support ongoing support efforts from unions and nonprofits.

The streaming giant has been among the relative beneficiaries of the pandemic so far, blowing past expectations in its last earnings call as viewing has climbed amid Stay-at-Home orders. So, too, have major potential buyers of Hollywood productions like Amazon and Apple TV, who have ample resources to acquire content now and once filming resumes, noted Bill Allen, chief executive of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

The imbalance between the relatively unscathed and the ruthlessly clobbered could permanently rejigger Hollywood's landscape.

"If it gets bad enough, you may see a company that is doing well in this environment, like Amazon and Netflix, you might find them starting to buy other companies," Del Vecchio said.

A second wave of the virus in winter, as some have predicted, would crush Hollywood, he said.

"What you are seeing now is terrible. What you could see in the fall will destroy the industry."

Do you have a story that needs to be told? My DMs are open on Twitter @racheluranga. You can also email me.

🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.

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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.


Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle

Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out

Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities

Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo

SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours

Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch

Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.

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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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