Writers Strike May End Soon, but Trouble Isn't Over

As the Writer's Guild prepares to wrap up its 14-week-long strike, the economic impact has been widespread among the many businesses that rely on the movie and television industries in Los Angeles.

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Rank and file members of the writers guild are voting today on both coasts on the new contract that's been negotiated on their behalf. If the contract is approved it will be welcome news for many business owners who depend on Hollywood to make a living.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates has that story.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: After striking writers effectively caused the cancellation of the Golden Globes last month, everyone's breathing a sigh of relief that the end of the 14-week writer's strike will mean the Academy Awards can go on. Fans can see actors like Meryl Streep as she was on the red carpet last year.

MERYL STREEP: It's thrilling to be here and just see so many people that I admire and that I worked with. And...

GRIGSBY BATES: The Oscars ceremony would provide a much needed infusion of cash to hotels, limousine services, and agencies that cater to the glamour end of the entertainment industry. But it's the less glamorous end of the industry that really needs to be raised from the economic death.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAYS CLANGING)

BRUCE SCHILLER: On "Pushing Daisies" when the person comes out and touches the blind, this is what you send.

GRIGSBY BATES: Bruce Schiller is pulling out a stainless steel morgue tray at his Los Angeles business, Major Medical Props. He provides everything from instruments to a full morgue setup to several prime time television shows. But the morgue drawer and the EKG machines and the OR lights that show up on series like "CSI" and "House" have been in the deep freeze while the strike dragged on.

Now, Schiller's hopeful that prop directors will be calling for his services again.

SCHILER: Now, they're just gathering the forces back together. So I envision by Wednesday, the phone will begin to ring again. We see hope at the end of the rainbow. Before, all of us are just in despair.

JACK KYSER: It has been a long strike and, yes, there's a lot of businesses that really got hammered.

GRIGSBY BATES: Jack Kyser is the chief economist for the Los Angeles County Development Corporation. He says that while the end of the strike is good news for people like Bruce Schiller, it won't be good news for everybody.

KYSER: And the reality is that even though the strike is settled, they're still going to be pain out there because television production is not going to be ramped up completely.

GRIGSBY BATES: For one thing, says Kyser, there will be a lot less work as some TV shows delayed production until the fall. Others that had been struggling maybe cancelled altogether. All of this is an effort to make up some of the $1.5 billion that was estimated to have been lost.

To add to the misery, many pilots that have been planned before the strike have been canceled to save money. That's something that keeps Bruce Schiller up at night.

SCHILLER: A great deal of our income is derived every year from making pilots. And now, the cutback of pilots - we're very frightened off at.

GRIGSBY BATES: PD-dependent businesses are frightened about something else, too. The actors' contract expires four months from now in June, which means businesses that have managed to hang on so far could be hit again. Economist Jack Kyser.

KYSER: Well, it sort of a good news-bad news scenario. Good news: WGA strike is settled. Bad news: The SAG could go out on strike. So keep your painkiller of choice handy.

GRIGSBY BATES: Business owners affected by the writer's strike are praying they won't need to swallow that pill.

KAREN GRIGBY BATES, NPR News.

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