Monthly Archives: June 2017

Obama praised the growth of employment in the entertainment industry

President Barack Obama put the klieg light on Hollywood Tuesday, crediting the motion picture and television industry for being an engine of growth and a bright spot in a recovering economy.

“Entertainment is one of the bright spots of our economy,” Obama told a crowd of nearly 2,000 people gathered at the Glendale campus of DreamWorks Animation SKG. “The gap between what we can do and other countries can do is enormous. That’s worth cheering about.”

Obama was hosted by DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is one of Obama’s biggest contributors and fundraisers.

A May 2012 fundraiser hosted by Katzenberg at George Clooney’s house raised nearly $15 million for the Obama campaign. And in September, Obama met Katzenberg for dinner at the Hilton Woodland Hills after an appearance the president made on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

Obama thanked Katzenberg for his support. “Jeffrey … has been a friend and supporter through thick and thin,” Obama said. “His place in the entertainment industry is legendary. I don’t need to puff him up too much. He has a healthy sense of self, but he is a great friend and somebody whose counsel and advice I value and I’m incredibly grateful to be here at this wonderful institution that he helped to build.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday that Obama chose the DreamWorks Animation site because of the studio’s track record in creating jobs, not because of Katzenberg’s fundraising. Employment at DreamWorks has risen by 50% since January 2008.

DreamWorks has generated billions in box-office revenue from its hit “Shrek,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar” movies, expanding its business in China and overseas markets and branching into television with a recent partnership with the Netflix streaming service.

Guided by Katzenberg, Obama got a lesson in how animators use motion capture to bring animated characters to life and had a funny exchange with actors Steve Martin and Jim Parsons, who were recording lines for the studio’s upcoming alien-invasion film, “Home.”

Obama greeted the actors in a small sound studio. He shook hands with Parsons but not Martin, who declined, explaining that he had a cold. Instead of shaking hands, the actor and the president did a little elbow bump.

“Are you going to sound a little nasal in your reading today?” the president asked Martin.

“I actually got the cold intentionally,” Martin joked.

“How’s the banjo playing?” Obama asked Martin. “This guy performed at the White House and was unbelievable,” he said, turning to the press. “I was a little shocked at how good he was.”

Martin said the performance had been “the biggest thrill of his life.”

“That’s how I felt about it,” Obama said. “I told Michelle: ‘Biggest thrill of my life. Inauguration, nothing; Steve playing banjo, that was big.'”

After the tour, Obama said he asked Katzenberg if he could work for the company and quipped that he felt a natural connection to the studio because his “ears were one of the inspirations for Shrek.”

The president met privately with a group of top Hollywood executives including CBS Corp. Chief Executive Les Moonves; Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara; Peter Rice, chairman of Fox Broadcasting; Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment; Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBC Universal; and Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

“The meeting was an opportunity to discuss the economy and highlight the entertainment industry as a bright spot in our growing economy,” Earnest said. “The president discussed the impact that broader economic conditions has on the industry. He also touched on piracy and intellectual property rights, which are chief concerns of participating film industry leaders.”

Obama’s visit and upbeat message about the entertainment industry, however, comes at a time of widespread anxiety among the middle-class crew members in Los Angeles who work behind the scenes on film and TV sets.

Many have seen their job opportunities and incomes dwindle as more work has migrated to other states and countries such as Canada and the U.K. that offer film productions stronger incentives and tax breaks than are available in California.

“Some indicators suggest that activity in the entertainment industry is up, but that has not translated into jobs here in California,” said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “In fact, the number of industry-related jobs locally and in California has shown little improvement since the recession, even as industry employment nationally has increased modestly over the past couple of years.”

LA. County Many saw a 3.1% increase in entertainment work in October

Employment in L.A.’s entertainment sector rebounded last month, with the number of film and TV jobs rising 3.1% over the year before.

Employment in L.A. County’s motion picture and sound recording category — which covers the bulk of employment in the local film, TV and music industries — rose to 118,400 jobs in October, an increase of 3,600 jobs from October 2012 and nearly 2% from September, according to state employment data.

The entertainment sector fared better than L.A. County’s economy as whole. Non-farm employment in L.A. rose 1.4% in October compared with October 2012, while the number of non-farm jobs in Sept. was up 1.2% from a year ago.

The figures, compiled by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., are subject to revision and do not count those who work as freelancers or independent contractors.

Nonetheless, they represent an improvement over September’s job picture, when L.A. County lost 1,000 jobs in the entertainment category compared with the same month in 2012, a decline of 0.9 %.

Studios including Walt Disney and DreamWorks Animation, as well post-production houses such as Rhythm & Hues and Digital Domain, have laid off hundreds of workers this year in an effort to cut costs. Southern California also has been squeezed by the exodus of film and TV jobs to other states and countries.

Entertaining tips

With the holiday season gearing up, more than a few of us will be hosting a festive dinner party, buffet or potluck. As pleasant as any holiday event may be, it seems like the moment someone rings the dinner bell, an otherwise civil gathering can turn into a stampede as guests mob the food table.

Much as I like to keep my buffets casual and free-form, there are a few rules I always follow to keep the meal organized. Call it a little “buffet psychology.” Here are some tips:

1. Organize the food layout, with a definite beginning and ending. Set the plates, napkins and silverware/plasticware at one end of the table near the food, so guests know where to line up. This will keep the guests from rushing the food like an NFL defensive line.

2. Consider plate size. Guests tend to fill up whatever size plate they have, be it small or large. Go with a smaller plate (8 to 9 inches in diameter) so guests don’t overfill and waste food. They can always go back for seconds.

3. Organize all of the less-expensive/greater-quantity foods at the “beginning” of the buffet, like salads and starches (rolls, rice, potatoes, etc). Save the big ticket and expensive items for the very end of the buffet (turkey, roast, fish) so guests have less room on their plates and are less likely to overfill.

The game name is music in the new Forum

Seasoned concert-goers who walk into the resurrected Forum in Inglewood after it opens Wednesday with the first of six Eagles concerts may be struck as much by what’s missing as by what’s been added to the 46-year-old former sports palace.

The overhead electronic scoreboard and basketball backboards that were integral to the Forum during its 31-year reign as Southern California’s premiere sports arena? Gone.

Hard-plastic sports-arena seats? Gone — replaced by movie theater-style high-back upholstered seats.

The blue exterior color added in 1988 when Great Western Bank secured naming rights? Gone, replaced by gleaming coats of the original shade now known as “Forum red.”

All the missing elements add up to what the revamped Forum is: a new kind of arena, one thoroughly reconfigured with music and live entertainment as the top priorities, rather than subservient to resident sports teams.

It’s the outcome of a $100-million investment by Madison Square Garden Co. as the New York firm’s first West Coast venture. In some respects, it’s a $100-million gamble as MSG rolls the dice in hopes that it can create a viable business at the arena level without a sports team to anchor the calendar, as has been the rule at arenas across the country.

“We don’t know how things are going to go,” said MSG Executive Chairman James L. Dolan, who has overseen the recent $1-billion overhaul of Madison Square Garden itself and major rehab efforts on other historic New York venues, including Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre. “But I’m very hopeful. We’ve tried to think of everything we could that would make it [work], and if it does — if we are right — I think it does change the game.”

The return of the Forum may well represent a game-changer both in the healthy concert business, if aging arenas in other cities can be profitably retooled for live entertainment, as well as for the city of Inglewood and its environs, which have struggled as fortunes faded at the Forum and neighboring Hollywood Park.

Absent any resident sports teams, the Forum has been redesigned to maximize the concert-going experience. Concrete walls and partitions have been dressed up with black fabric to absorb sonic reverberations that can wreak havoc with music.

As for the luxury corporate sky boxes that help newly built arenas pay the bills, but which push upper-deck seating for fans even farther from the stage on concert nights—the top row of the Forum is 80 feet above the arena floor, compared to 110 feet at Staples Center–they never existed at the Forum, and none have been added.

Musicians will find that in place of the athletic locker rooms they’ve often had to use as makeshift dressing rooms, the Forum has reinvented those backstage spaces as elegantly appointed artist rest and relaxation spaces. For today’s elaborate stage shows, crews will now have the ability to hang 350,000 pounds of equipment from the ceiling, to which 230 tons of steel support have been added.

Now the gussied-up Forum is positioned to compete with the venue that once stole its fire. Not that Staples Center will be rolling over.

“It’s another large venue coming into an already crowded market,” said Staples Senior Vice President and General Manager Lee Zeidman. “I don’t know how many shows they’ll have to have to make a profit, but at the end of the day, I think we still have the best artist and fan ameninties. Coupled with two hotels next door, 19 restaurants in the L.A. Live complex and three more ready to open up and our location downtown, I think Staples Center is going to continue to be the region’s preferred chioce for arena and concert entertainment.”

The Forum was designed by architect Charles Luckman (he also designed the original Madison Square Garden arena) and built by Lakers’ owner Jack Kent Cooke. After opening in 1967, it reigned as the region’s premiere sports arena for more than 30 years, until billionaire developer Philip Anschutz’s Anschutz Entertainment Group opened Staples Center 10 miles away.

During the 2000s, the Forum saw only sporadic activity while it was owned by the Faithful Central Bible Church, which sold it to MSG last year for $23.5 million.

Today, however, the Forum could take a serious bite out of its competitor’s concert business because many of Staples calendar dates are consumed by its resident NBA and NHL sports franchises: the Lakers, the Clippers and the Kings. Those teams keep Staples busy more than 120 nights a year, although Staples officials downplay any limitations sports activity presents for concert bookings.

“We put on 53 concerts last year,” Zeidman saidbesting the arena’s previous high of 38. “We’re going into our 14th year, and We’ve never had a problem routing in an artist who wanted to play Staples Center.”