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SAG Earnings Rise to $1.64B

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Despite two shaky years of dealing with producers, the Screen Actors Guild has continued to see rising income overall for its working members. The guild's latest report shows total earnings from 2001 at $1.64 billion, a 3.2% increase over income on all contracts for 2000, and an overall rise of 2.5% since 1997.

Total income for principal performers rose 2.7% from $1.525 billion in 2000 to $1.566 billion last year. Total background earnings rose 13.4%, from $66.1 million to $74.9 million. Session earnings rose 6.3% from $973.4 million to $1.03 billion. Residuals fell 1.8% from $617.6 million to $606.6 million.

The SAG-Producers Pension and Health Plans compiled the earnings numbers, which the guild released last week. The figures reflect member session fees and residuals work in major contracts, including the theatrical, television, and commercials pacts.

SAG saw its greatest increase (7.2%) in its theatrical contract, which rose from $419.2 million in 2000 to $449.5 million last year. Principals' theatrical sessions rose from $244.2 million to $265.3 million, or 8.6%. Theatrical background funds increased 10% from $22 million to $24.2 million. Theatrical residuals rose from $153.1 million to $160.1 million, or 4.6%.

However, the theatrical pact stays in third place for income behind the guild's top two money-garnering pacts: the television and commercial contracts.

The TV pact—the guild's most lucrative—brought in $614.7 million. But that represents a 1.7% drop over 2000's record high of $625.3 million. The bulk share of the 2001 monies "accounted for work done during the first half of 2001"—which SAG said was due to "the acceleration of production…in reaction to 2001 Basic and Television SAG agreement negotiations and do not necessarily represent a rising trend."

Members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)—having seen the guild engage in a bitter six-month commercials strike against the ad industry in 2000—proved extremely wary of SAG's activism as the two sides moved to the bargaining table on a new feature-film and TV pact in 2001. That led producers to begin productions earlier, and complete major projects before negotiations began. That further led to the high income numbers early in the year. Then, after SAG agreed to a new pact that summer, production dropped.

Television sessions for principals dropped nearly 2% from $449.5 million in 2000 to $441.1 million last year. TV background income fell 1.1% from $31.1 million to $30.8 million. TV residuals plopped 1.3% from $144.7 million to $142.9 million.

SAG saw a nearly 6% increase in commercial income—the union's second-highest money source—from $531.8 million in 2000 to $563 million in 2001. However, both those figures remain far below the wellspring years of '97-'99, when the guild's commercial income rose from $606 million to $630.3 million. Those three years, of course, experienced a high-flying economy. The guild figured that the 2000 commercials contract strike cost its members $100 million; and 2001 saw a sour economy turn a formerly flowing advertising market to a drip-dry.

The smallest pact—the industrial and interactive agreement—witnessed a 5.3% drop in earnings from $14.7 million to $14.0 million.

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