Over $3 billion: Estimating economic impact of Hollywood strikes

SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America (WGA) members continue striking outside Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, U.S., August 22, 2023. Photo by REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni.

The film and TV industries account for more than 700,000 jobs in the state, according to the California Film Commission. And as the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes continue, how are they economically impacting LA and California? At least three billion dollars is the fallout so far, according to some estimates, including from Todd Holmes, an entertainment media management professor at Cal State Northridge.  

He based his calculations partly off of information from previous strikes, and a 2008 report from the Milken Institute. 

Who’s getting hit hardest? Holmes says the industry itself, plus businesses that rely on productions, such as caterers, prop houses, dry cleaners, and more. 

“Their business has gone down quite a bit since this all began, it's taking a real hit. … It also includes the less discretionary income that people that work in the industry happen to spend on different things. … I've heard personal accounts of this and people saying, ‘Well, I was gonna buy a new car, I'm gonna have to hold off on that,’ or ‘I was gonna look into buying a home, I'm gonna hold back on that.’ … That impacts the greater economy of LA.” 

Read more: Businesses reliant on Hollywood suffer as strikes continue

During the last writers’ strike, Holmes says about 38,000 people lost their jobs permanently, such as below-the-line workers. He says that even once the strike is over, it will take time for productions to restart, impacting the livelihoods of workers. 

“People have to pay their bills, pay their rent. Rent is not cheap in LA in the interim. … Some of those people may just have to pack their bags and say, ‘You know what, I'm gonna have to go back home to … Oklahoma or wherever, and wait things out until this strike is over. And then I can come back out to LA.’ But unfortunately, I think it could lead to some people choosing different career paths, and not end up coming back to entertainment.”

Read more: Unpaid rent, no insurance: Hollywood crews need help

Holmes points out that his calculations do not include the strikes’ economic impact on other cities, such as New York, Atlanta, and Vancouver, where TV shows and movies are also produced. 

“You factor those in, I think you've got to at least add several billion dollars. … You could take that $3.5 billion and at least go to … maybe $6 billion.”

Many KCRW staff are members of SAG-AFTRA, though we are under a separate contract from the agreement at issue between actors and studios.



  • Todd Holmes - entertainment media management professor at Cal State Northridge