Declining Employment In Motion Picture Industry

Posted on 9/10/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the motion picture and sound recording industry has dropped from as high as 368,000 in 2013 down to just 298,000 in August, a 19% drop in just over two years. (See MarketWatch story for more details.

Warner Bros, a division of Time Warner Inc, plans to offer buyouts to an unspecified number of workers as part of a drive to increase profits and may fire staff if too few employees take the offer. The studio’s domestic box office receipts have dropped 15% in 2014.

Discovery Channel has strengthened their licensing agreements with producers so they own all rights to all footage created for their productions including all out-takes of material produced for the production. In addition to the final edited version of a show, producers are required to deliver all footage shot during the production and have no rights to further use of the material. Producers indicate that the compensation for most Discovery Channel projects is “barely enough” to justify continued production.

However, when it comes to stock video clips included in the final cut of a project Discovery only gets rights for the particular project. The distributor retains the right to license the clips for use in other projects. Consequently, many producers are putting their production into stock first before making it available to Discovery so they can retain their rights.

Profits Without Prosperity

All this reminds me of a recent Harvard Business Review article by economist William Lazonick entitled “Profits Without Prosperity.” While long, I highly recommend it to readers.

Lazonick examined the activities of S&P 500 companies and found that from WWII to as late as 1981 less than half of corporate profits were distributed to shareholder. This left over 50% that could be used for business expansions, new or improved technologies, worker training and pay increases, all of which might help the long range growth of the business. However, beginning in 1982 corporations began devoting a steadily higher share to senior managers and shareholders.

Between 2003 and 2012 the percentage going to shareholders and senior managers had grown to 91%, leaving only 9% for long range “growing the business” activities.

This article provides a very clear explanation of what has been happening and proposes legislative changes that are needed. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that such changes will be made. People in the image creation and distribution businesses -- the "worker bees" -- need to take these facts into account as they plan for their individual futures.

Copyright © 2014 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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