Strike's toll on Calif.: $2.5 bil

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The ricochet effect from the writers strike might be more far-reaching and long-lasting than first thought.

So says Jack Kyser in his just-released annual "Economic Forecast Report" for Los Angeles County and its surrounding areas.

The work stoppage that started Nov. 5 and was settled early this month already has cost the town an estimated $2.5 billion, according to Kyser, the chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

The figure includes lost wages from TV shows that were canceled and films that were put on hold as well as a plethora of support services, ranging from limo drivers to florists. Kyser suggested that the cancellation of the Golden Globes resulted in a $60 million shortfall for the community.

The 71-page report, set to be unveiled today, focuses on other issues affecting the region, including the housing crisis and tourism, but it contains several pages devoted to problems facing the entertainment business.

While Kyser and his team of researchers point out the strong gains in domestic and international boxoffice receipts in 2007, the buoyant season for cable shows and a savvier use of the Internet for marketing content, there are worrying signs to contend with.

Kyser said chief among the concerns is that SAG leaders are "talking tough," so there is growing concern that they will go on strike come July despite deal settlements by the DGA and WGA. He also pointed out that DVD sales have leveled off, declining last year by 3.4% to $16 billion, and that the scripted TV season, both what remains of it this spring and what will come in the fall, have been discombobulated by the strike.

Kyser also noted that California grants no incentives for low-budget film productions, and with the state's budget deficit soaring, none can be expected anytime soon.
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