There are 88 cities in Los Angeles County. One million people. More than two hundred languages are spoken.
For most of the world, the nine-letter symbol that defines the entire region: Hollywood.
Los Angeles has long been considered a global “company town” for show business, and a rare actors’ strike that upended the signature industry this week has raised the prospect of economic impacts across Southern California as a critical regional issue. But economists disagree about how widespread the simultaneous actors’ and writers’ strikes will be.
Even by the most generous estimates, Hollywood has never supported more than about 5 percent of employment in a sector that employs many people in business, health care, government, and even Southern California’s declining manufacturing sectors. Yet Hollywood pervades Los Angeles life in ways as big as a movie set or as small as a detour down the street on some awards night.
For many, halted productions and dark premieres are not only a threat to the flow of dollars to restaurants and retailers that cater to film crews, but also a blow to the region’s cultural heart.
“To the extent that Hollywood defines the idea of America where I live, Hollywood’s problems become my problems,” said DJ Waldie, a cultural historian in Southern California. “When Hollywood stops, not just a few studios, but a lot of things stop here.”
A 2007 screenwriters strike cost the California economy $2.1 billion, according to a study. The last time unionized screenwriters and actors staged a double walkout in 1960, the strikes did not settle for nearly six months.
The economic impact on Los Angeles will largely be determined by the length of the two strikes, economists said Friday, with some more optimistic than others.
Lee Ohanian, an economics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles who has written extensively about California, estimates that about 20 percent of the local economy will be affected because the industry generates so much revenue and pays so much compensation. Local staff.
Chris Thornberg, founding partner of Los Angeles consulting firm Beacon Economics, said the strikes may not be felt locally because much of the display business is focused on exploiting and distributing existing content.
“As long as people pay Hulu and buy Disney movies online, we make money,” Dr. Thornberg said. “Eventually, there will come a time when the lack of content starts to bite, but it’s a slow boil, not a sudden one.”
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass made it clear that she considers the labor dispute an urgent local issue and called on studios and unions to “work through the night” to reach an equitable agreement.
“It affects all of us, and it’s vital to our overall economy,” Mayor Bass said.
Less likely to affect Southern California’s self-image. Show business is wrapped up in the region’s civic identity in a way unmatched by less famous cities.
Los Angeles’ most famous office party, the Academy Awards, was attended by 18.7 million people this year. The backdrops, from Venice Beach to the Sixth Street Viaduct, are locally proudly considered stars in their own right. Homeowners from the San Fernando Valley to South Pasadena have a lucrative side hustle, renting out their homes for movie shoots and commercials.
While most of the famous names live in gated mansions, few Angelenos, even in remote locations, are without a celebrity story – as found in producer Joshua Tree, a famous face in the next lane of traffic.
“Everywhere I go, people ask me the same question: What stars have I met?” said Stephen Cheung, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. “If I was from another city, no one would ask me that.”
Born in Hong Kong, Mr. Cheung, 44, said he saw his first real celebrity through a car window when he was about 10 years old in Los Angeles. “We were near the convention center downtown and all of a sudden a car pulled up and I saw Madonna get out.”
Many people know the stars the way they know anyone in the nation’s second-largest city: neighbors or co-parents or people walking their dogs. Entertainers sponsor local schools, launch second careers as politicians, stump for state ballot initiatives and occasionally fight the mayor for trying to fill his own potholes.
Long supported by liberal statewide Democratic leaders; Earlier this month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom extended a $330 million-a-year film and television tax credit program to encourage studios to keep productions in-house.
Some communities share a special bond.
“We have a lot of studio people in Burbank,” retired medical clinic administrative worker Mimi House said Thursday while having lunch with a group of retirees in a “beautiful downtown” Los Angeles suburb. The union known as SAG-AFTRA has announced a walkout.
Without the entertainment industry, Burbank would be a “ghost town,” added Virginia Bohr, a retired accountant who sat at the table with Ms. House. Local officials recently renamed their airport Hollywood Burbank, technically Hollywood is a neighborhood in the separate city of Los Angeles.
The sector has long attracted show business aspirants from around the world hoping to get their big break. Many people scrape by for years before finding work outside of the entertainment industry.
Thomas Whaley, a veteran teacher who has coordinated an extensive visual and performing arts curriculum for 23 years in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, credits the entertainment community with drawing him to the field and helping to ensure his program’s long-term success. It has become a statewide model for the breadth and quality of its offerings. Without the local concentration of talent, he said, he would never have ended up with the job he has come to value.
“I moved to L.A. in 1990 to play trombone for film and TV,” says Mr., who grew up in Rhode Island and studied to be a studio musician on full scholarship at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and the University of Miami. said the fence. “My mom kept saying, come home, Rhode Island’s great, and I’m like, Mom, they don’t have what I need.”
Other Angelenos feel disconnected from an industry whose workers have long been concentrated in wealthier, whiter parts of the city.
In Mid-City, a predominantly Latino and black Los Angeles neighborhood several miles south of Hollywood, Rachel Johnson and Rosario Gomez, 17, were more interested in frozen fruit treats from the local palata. Shop for more than Hollywood strikers need.
“It’s the least of our worries,” Ms. said of the picket lines. Johnson said struggling mom-and-pop businesses on their streets, rising rents and permanent homeless encampments.
“Yes, there are big issues like nobility,” Ms. Gomez added.
Yeju Kim, 29, who works at Geopolitics, a small eatery on Pico Boulevard near La Cevicheria, acknowledged that Hollywood “can be worlds apart,” even for Angelenos born and raised in the city.
But she and her roommate, David Choi, 27, have reflected on Los Angeles’s larger immigrant communities, and in recent years have focused on film and television.
“I feel solidarity,” said Mr. Choi, a novelist who is interested in the salary levels Hollywood sets for its writers. “I’m happy to participate in boycotting a show.”
Corinna Knoll Contributed reporting from Los Angeles Vic Joly From Burbank, California.