Actually, Jobs In Making Movies Are On The Rise, Not Falling

from the oh-look-at-that... dept

One of the key talking points that the movie industry likes to bring up concerning the reason it wants SOPA and PROTECT IP is that it has to “protect jobs.” In a recent talk by the MPAA’s Chris Dodd, he once again talked up how many jobs were being “lost” in the movie industry. First, he pulled out the industry’s favorite 2.2 million number, which is clearly bogus. As we noted earlier in the week, new research from the Congressional Research Service shows that the movie industry actually employs 374,000, making the claim (pulled from the highly questionable Institute for Policy Innovation) that the industry is losing 373,000 jobs each year… kinda questionable.

But I wanted to get a better understanding of what was actually happening to jobs in and around the motion picture industry. Seeing as CEOs of the major studios continue to bring in record salaries, it certainly sounds like the industry isn’t doing that bad. Thankfully, research firm IBISWorld digs pretty deep into different industries to separate out what’s happening. After digging through the numbers, it looks like the MPAA is (yet again) being intellectually dishonest.

If you look at the jobs in actual movie production — the kind that they always imply are most at risk — it turns out those jobs are growing rapidly. In 2002, there were about 43,000 people employed in the actual production of movies and videos. In 2010? That number had jumped to 77,000. Not bad. So where are the few job losses coming from? Well, there are about 1,500 fewer jobs in “movie and video distribution,” but that makes sense, since technology is making that area less important. Really, the only place in the industry that has seen a significant loss in jobs (and even then it’s not that big) is in the movie theater business. Employment in movie theaters dropped from about 134,000 in 2002 to about 119,000 in 2010. That accounts almost entirely for the drop in total employment in the movie business from 392,000 down to 374,000 that the CRS report noted.

In other words, the only “significant” job losses that we can spot are coming from the theaters themselves — and it’s difficult to see how that’s got much, if anything, to do with piracy. As was noted in the CRS report, box office revenue has continued to hit records every year. So, really, it looks like theaters may just be cutting staff to cut costs, but that revenue at the box office keeps getting higher. So, more money with fewer staff. That’s not exactly a story that shows an industry decimated by piracy.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,
Companies: mpaa

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Actually, Jobs In Making Movies Are On The Rise, Not Falling”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Rikuo (profile) says:

Okay, here’s some back-of-the-envelope math.
Let’s say each of the 373,000 jobs “lost” had a $50,000 salary (and that’s being generous.
373,000 x 50,000 = 18,650,000,000. In words, that’s Eighteen Billion (with a B), Six hundred and Fifty Million dollars.

Now, the MPAA is saying that because people aren’t buying movies, that it can’t afford to pay these 373,000 people. Okay, how many sales would they have to have in order to pay that many people? Let’s assume $10 a movie.
So, 18.65 billion divided by 10 = 1,865,000,000. In words, that one billion, eight hundred and sixty five million. So, for the MPAA to pay 373,000 people, they would have to sell nearly 2 Billion movies.

Note that all these calculations are bogus. I assumed that the only thing the MPAA is selling was movies. I didn’t factor in other sales, such as merchandise.

Scooters (profile) says:

“In other words, the only “significant” job losses that we can spot are coming from the theaters themselves — and it’s difficult to see how that’s got much, if anything, to do with piracy.”
Indeed. The irony here is theaters are losing out because of the increase Hollywood charges for its movies. How any theater can make money today with this is, frankly, impossible.

It should be noted, additionally, the number of theaters failing across the country is growing, so it’s no surprise the industry is making more money because it charges those still going more money, as evident with the “Because we can” price increase of 3D movies.

This isn’t a buggy whip industry. It’s a leather industry which charges outrages prices to those who do make buggy whips, wondering why everyone’s moving to synthetic fibers.

It’ll be interesting to see theater owners ask the question: “Who’s going to bail us out?” while Dodd counts his bonus, laughing.

If there’s to be any action by the government, it should be to look into this price-fixing, price-gouging industry.

mischab1 says:

*Waves hand* I know! I know!

Each film is it’s own company right? Therefore everytime they finish filming a movie, everybody who is only involved in the filming looses their job. The gaffers, makeup artists, even the actors themselves have lost a job. And after the next movie they loose their job again.

Let’s see… The average number of people employed to film a movie times the number of movies filmed in a year… I don’t know, 2.2 million? I must be forgetting to count someone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Each film is it’s own company right?”

Many major studios have established in-house production departments (costuming, construction, lighting, etc.) who work for the studio and just go from in-house assignment to in-house assignment.
Special effects studios like Industrial Light & Magic have in-house staffs that work on several different projects for different studios at the same time.
(When I worked on the movie souvenir book for Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, I got to visit ILM. The same techs who were doing Khan effects were also prepping to shoot Return of the Jedi sfx and pre-prepping storyboards for Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

ILM Singapore works alongside Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) in the US to produce world-class visual effects. ILM has received 15 Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and 23 Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards. Since 2006, ILM Singapore has worked on the production of visual effects shots and sequences for a variety of feature films, including Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, the Transformers franchise and Iron Man.

Lucasfilm Animation Singapore produces animated content for television and film. Current projects include the hit television series STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS as well as a to-be-announced upcoming animated feature.

LucasArts Singapore is an extension of LucasArts in the US — a leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment software worldwide for video game console systems, computers and the Internet. The Singapore team focuses on handheld, mobile, and console games. Several recent projects include Star Wars? The Clone Wars?: Jedi Alliance? for the Nintendo DS platform, Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge for iPhone, iPhone Touch, Xbox LIVE and Playstation 3 as well as work on The Force Unleashed II.

Basically all work is done in Asia.
I wonder why.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Basically all work is done in Asia.
I wonder why.

For the same reason Warner Brothers Animation farms out the in-betweening for Green Lantern, Young Justice, Batman: Brave and the Bold, etc. to Korea, but does the scripting, layouts, character design, music, vocal talent, etc. in the US.

The scripting, storyboarding, and design work for Disney, Warners, Lucasfilm, Fox, etc, is all done in America.
The labor-intensive in-betweening is done overseas, and has been done since the 1970s. (Most of the 1970s Hanna-Barbera shows including SuperFriends and Josie & the Pussycats were animated in Australia.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Did you visit ILM Singapore?”

It was 1982.
ILM was (and still is) in Marin California.

Quote from the LucasFilm employment page…
“Our headquarters are in San Francisco’s historic Presidio National Park, with other business locations in nearby Marin County as well as in Singapore.”

And if you read the rest of the page you quoted…

ILM Singapore WORKS ALONGSIDE Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) in the US to produce world-class visual effects.

So, why are you implying that ILM is ONLY in Singapore?
Because it suits your skewed worldview?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

how many jobs are the movie studios offshoring? that probably explains the little dip that the CRS report illustrated.

Not many. Certainly nothing like the tech industry’s wholesale shipping of jobs to third world manufacturers, call centers in Calcutta and use of O-1 and L-1 visas to bring low wage tech professionals to work in the US, displacing US tech workers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Dr. Michio Kaku America Has A Secret Weapon

There are nobody being displaced by L-1 Visas, because there is nobody who can do the job that those very intelligent people from around the world do, there is no Americans in engineering schools anymore Americans want to be rock stars, movie stars or sport stars they don’t want to be scientific stars because there is no “glory” or money in it.

Immigrants are what made America great, the day you forget that is the day you will end America leadership in the world.

Are you the one who created Paypal, Amazon, Google, United Arstists?

Warner Bros.

The corporate name honors the four founding Warner brothers (born Wonskolaser)[2][3]?Harry (born Hirsch), Albert (born Aaron), Sam (born Szmul), and Jack (born Jacob), whose parents had emigrated to North America from Poland, which was at that time part of the Russian Empire.

Columbia Pictures is a Sony subsidiary.

Marcus Loew founder of MGM was from a poor jewish immigrant family.

Rupert Murdoch(Australian) founder of Fox Entertainment Group

William Fox(born Fried Vilmos in Hungary) founder of 20th Century Fox.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

But You Have To Multiple-Count The Jobs!

You have to count those 374,000 jobs multiple times to come up with the true figure. After all, copyright enables you to do something once and get paid over and over for it, so a job in the copyright industry allows you to employ someone and get them to work over and over for you, so therefore it should be counted as multiple jobs. When you get a job with a company in the RIAA or MPAA, you don?t actually get the job, you only get a licence to a job. That?s where the 2.2 million figure comes from.

Anonymous Coward says:

Most movie jobs are temporary

“Many major studios have established in-house production departments (costuming, construction, lighting, etc.) who work for the studio and just go from in-house assignment to in-house assignment.
Special effects studios like Industrial Light & Magic have in-house staffs that work on several different projects for different studios at the same time.”

This is the exception not the rule. The vast majority of movie/episodic jobs are temp jobs. I often work on projects owned by large media corporations whose names you would recognize, but the production company name on my paycheck is a small holding company. The days when most film workers worked only for one big studio most of their career are largely over. Most of us get fired and hired anywhere from several to dozens of times a year.

Yes a lot of work has been offshored, although this mainly means Canada. Some of it has come back, in large part to sweet production incentive deals.

Scott says:

OK, this is a logical fallacy. Even taking the statistics for granted, that jobs in the movie-making industry are going up, this does not disprove the assertion that piracy and copyright infringement costs jobs. One could argue that the jobs would be growing at an even greater rate without piracy. And even then, you’re still making a Robin Hood argument. Just because an enterprise is profitable, doesn’t give you the right to acquire their goods without paying for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

One can also say that piracy is the very reason that jobs are growing in a recession in that sector, without it, those products would be out of sight and out of mind.

And there is the case for the definition of piracy and the legality of it, this is not a decision any government will make for its citizens it is not up to them to decide it and the reality of the matter is, no government or company has the power to stop anybody that wants to engage in piracy and the public knows it, so until those definitions and laws get in line with the public view don’t expect people to respect the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

What is Costing Jobs

I will start off with I believe that there a problem with piracy but I don’t think it is anywhere near what is costing the jobs.
“it seems that Disney’s CEO (Robert Iger) made $29,617,964 in 2010”
Whats taking the jobs is the Greed of the CEO’s lets take 10millon of that away and well that still leaves the CEO 19millon dollars for a year who the heck could not live super well off that (and leave a nice nest egg for later on) Back to the point take the 10 Million and give 166 people a job making 60,000 for the year.
and this is just one of these CEO’s.

Greed of the big companies and Greed of our politicians that is ruining this dang country

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Actual Employment in Movie Theaters.

In round numbers, there are about six thousand theaters, with thirty-eight thousand screens, and maybe twenty people watching each screen. In other words, the notional theater has six-and-a-half screens, and a typical audience of a hundred and thirty at one time. If you make up a reasonable employee roster, viz manager, cashier, ticket-taker, two or three people at the concession stand, and projectionist; and figure two shifts, that comes out to something like twelve people, full-time-equivalent, or about seventy thousand for the entire movie theater industry, as distinct from the total of 120,000-130,000 jobs Mike Masnick cites. Presumably the ticket-takers and concession stand workers are more or less completely part-time. At least half of these jobs are obviously minimum-wage, and presumably held by high-school students or the like. Particularly if the theater’s projection systems are digital, and automated to the point that they don’t need a resident projectionist, only the manager and cashier have to be full-time, and paid more than minimum wage. The number of people whom the movie theater industry actually keeps off unemployment insurance might be more on the order of twenty-five thousand.

If the audience were not eating at the movie theater, they would be eating somewhere else. They might of course eat at home, to their great advantage, but they would probably be eating at Micky D’s instead, or else in a shopping mall food court. The counter help at a movie theater would simply be employed at a fast food restaurant instead.

What it comes down to is that, outside of Hollywood, the employment implications of the movie industry are minimal.

To take another point, the category “people employed in producing movies” might very well contain large numbers of people producing wedding movies and suchlike. The apparent growth may simply be a matter of large numbers of wedding photographers acquiring video capability. These kinds of movies have essentially no sales potential outside of the friends and family of the lucky couple.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike, you are a sneaky one.

First off, your only source is the congressional report, which we have already shown is NOT telling anywhere near all the truth. As an example, while it shows box office gross up, it doesn’t show ticket sales (actual numbers of people going to the theaters) as dropping fairly quickly. Only increases in ticket prices and 3D “surcharge” tickets have kept them in the game.

As for “jobs”, the numbers are also somewhat misleading because they include full and part time together in the same pot. So that means that the student who works 4 hours as a theater usher on Saturday each week is equal in the report to a camera operating filming a production 60 hours a week.

Further, let’s be fair here: you already “debunked” these numbers as bullshit, so why are you relying on them to try to make a point? Hypocrite much?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...