Finance Column » Your Money This Week » Hollywood’s green carpet

Hollywood’s green carpet

By Mark Hamrick ·
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Posted 11 am ET

The motion picture industry shines a spotlight on itself this week. Although the famed carpet leading up to the Academy Awards venue is red, it might as well be green considering how much money the industry apparently makes.

That point was forcefully made by the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, former Sen. Christopher Dodd, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He is, in effect, Hollywood's top lobbyist in the tradition of the late Jack Valenti. The powerful Valenti held the post for nearly four decades, credited for creating the modern movie ratings system.

Dodd said there's no other industry in the U.S. with a more positive balance of trade. In other words, the industry is a robust exporter to the world. Said Dodd, "In 2011, the film and television industry had $14.2 billion in exports."

Although live coverage of the Oscars can focus on the stars' escorts or what they wear, Dodd's speech storyline was centered on the film and television trades' contributions to the U.S. economy.

It is the proverbial bottom line for an industry that many of us take for granted, when we're ordering something from Netflix or iTunes or buying tickets at the box office. Specifically, Dodd said "every workday, more than 2.1 million of our fellow citizens go to work at a job that either directly or indirectly depends on movies and TV." He said the number of "direct jobs" is nearly 700,000, part of a "network of 95,000 small businesses" across the U.S.

He also said the average salary in the industry is more than $62,000 a year. That's well short of the multimillions that some stars make per film, but still a solid, living wage.

When you see those jewel bedazzled starlets on the carpet, Dodd said they represent just a fraction of all the people who toil in the trade. They are in New York or Los Angeles as well as in a growing number of locations around the country and the world. For example, he said along with "Lincoln," four other movies and one television series were filmed in Virginia in 2011 alone, responsible for almost 1,400 jobs and more than $640 million in wages.

The Oscars telecast begins at 7 p.m. Eastern time Sunday.

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