For the 1999-2000 season, Actors' Equity Association's members saw annual earnings and work-per-week totals edge up, and the number of members in good standing eke up, while total annual workweeks, road workweeks, and new memberships fell.
That's the year-end word from the national union in its overall employment report published in the December issue of Equity News, the union's newspaper.
Annual members' earnings for the past year, in round figures, totalled a record $256 million, as opposed to last year's $255 million. Those numbers, figured as median annual earnings per member, come to $6,283 for this year, compared to $6,261 for '98-'99.
The report also included Equity's financial statement showing the union operating with a budget, for the year ending last March 31, of $26.5 million.
Total members in good standing inched up from 37,936 to 38,013. Meanwhile, total members working for the year rose by 636, from 16,340 in '99 to 16,976 this year.
Figures showed 15.6% of the membership employed per week, with 5,940 members working in '99-'00 compared to 5,802 a year earlier.
"Just as it appears that the country may be entering the beginnings of an economic downturn, most of the past season's relevant data seem to indicate that we have reached a plateau in many of the major categories typically scrutinized in these reports," Guy Pace, Equity's assistant executive director for national administration and finance, told the membership in the study's introduction. Pace authored the detailed report, which, including charts and graphs, covered five pages in the union's tabloid.
Pace noted that the union's lucrative production pact "for the 1999-2000 season saw a significant drop in the area of touring companies. While it was apparent that this negative pattern had commenced during the course of the past two seasons, we are now genuinely experiencing the full impact of a sizeable downturn in both overall employment weeks and earnings on the road."
Equity's figures show that a year ago, members labored a total 287,416 annual workweeks. That number slid only slightly this year to 287,353.
A chart monitoring Broadway workweeks against road shows—the two major areas covered under the production contract—indicated that Broadway stagings slipped slightly to about 41,000. Road shows have continued to drop dramatically from nearly 42,000 in '96-'97 to 30,000 this year.
Another chart tracing new membership showed the category peaking in '98-'99 at around 3,200, then falling over the past two seasons to about 2,900.
The Importance of Production
Equity presented its report in the structure of a 20-year overview, with tables and graphs covering numbers back to the 1979-80 season.
"Readers of these reports for the past 15 years are well aware that Equity's overall ability to function effectively, at least from a purely financial point of view, is intimately tied to the fortunes of the flagship production contract," Pace wrote.
Of the $256 million Equity's members earned in '99-'00, the production contract accounted for over half: just under $137 million. That was based on 3,865 contracts of the union's total 33,511 pacts for the year. The average weekly production-pact salary was $1,887.
Equity's Eastern section, which includes the magnet of New York City's Broadway, naturally reaped most of the production pact income with $126.6 million. In fact, the union's Eastern section garnered most of the overall $256 million income, bringing in just over $200 million under all contracts.
While no chart showed a comparison of this year's numerical income to other years, one table did indicate that the total number of workweeks under the production pact fell by about 5,500 from this season to last: 72,383 for '99-'00 compared to 77,919 in '98-'99.
Resident theatres, under the League of Resident Theatres contract, brought union members $41 million in '99-'00, or 16% of total earnings. Those figures were based on 8,095 contracts with an average weekly salary of $720.
Developing theatre earned members $15.9 million, or 6.2% of total monies, on 7,110 pacts with weekly salary average of $303.
Off-Broadway garnered $6.9 million on 998 contracts averaging $642 in weekly pay.
The Union's Finances
Equity's financial statement revealed the union with fiscal 2000 unrestricted net assets of $25.2 million, over $2 million higher than the previous year. Total liabilities equaled $1.36 million, an increase over the previous fiscal's $1.22 million.
Unrestricted revenues totaled $13 million with $3 million coming from basic membership dues, $5 million from working members' dues, and $2.2 million from initiation fees.
Revenues totaled just over $2 million higher than the previous year. Most of that increase came from investment income: $1.5 million this year compared to a deficit $319,700 the previous year, or an increase of $1.85 million.
The union's major expense areas were salaries and fringe benefits ($6.46 million), and office-related spending ($1.8 million). But salaries and benefits only rose $62,751 over the previous year, and office costs actually fell by $175,456.
Depreciation and amortization, a non-cash charge that reduces the value of fixed assets such as equipment and property, cost the union $585,500, while computer services billed in at $410,000.
Surety deposits, i.e. security funds assigned to Equity by theatrical organizations under collective bargaining agreements, equaled $5.9 million. Those funds are noted as liabilities, but not included in the income-expense accounting.
The union's staff pension plan, also not included in accounting income and expenses, had net assets of $12.7 million, $7.5 million of which are vested funds.