Members of the Screen Actors Guild saw their overall income rise to a record $1.66 billion in 1999, a $22 million, or 1.3%, increase over 1998.
It was good news for actors who earn money under the commercials contract. They received the greatest percentage increase of the major income areas at 3.5%, as well as the largest revenue source: $627.3 million. That pact's income also ranked first in the portion of actors' overall take with 37.7%.
Commercial actors, however, will view these figures with a bittersweet taste, realizing that this year's six-month spot-pact strike will drastically slash those income figures for next year's annual income report.
The television contract, which represents 36.1% of '99 earnings, didn't fair as well as the spot pact in '99, decreasing 0.8% with $599.5 million. TV brought in $604.5 million in '98.
Member income from theatrical motion pictures grew 1.2% from $418.5 million in '98 to $423.5 million in '99. That increased figure made up 25.5% of last year's overall earnings.
For SAG's background actors, it was bad news-good news, depending on where the artist performs. Total background income for '99 fell 4.2% from '98's $71 million to '99's $68.1 million.
Things looked up a lot, however, if the backgrounder worked in commercials. Appearing in spots brought extras a 19.1% increase, growing from $16.6 million in '98 to $19.8 million last year.
Theatrical background actors saw the greatest income drop (19.2%) as '98 paychecks of $26.1 million shrank to $21.1 million in '99.
Television-program income also tripped down 4.8% for backgrounders, from $28.1 million to $26.8 million.
SAG's smallest contract, the industrial and interactive pact, jumped 5.3% in '99, bringing in $12.2 million compared to '98's $11.6 million.
SAG member earnings have shown continued growth since 1992. Following a 3% total income decline in '91, the members have experienced annual increases of 2%, 8%, 5%, then highs of 9% ($1.36 billion) in 1995 and 12% ($1.53 billion) in '96. In 1997, members welcomed a 5% growth rate, and a drop to 2% growth in '98, although the overall income rose from $1.60 billion in '97 to $1.64 in '98.
"We're pleased that total earnings by members increased by 1.3% in 1999," William Daniels, SAG's national president, said. "However, we're concerned that television income actually decreased by nearly 1% and theatrical motion picture income increased by just a little over 1%. In addition, income earned by background actors (extras) decreased by 4.2%. I'm sure our wages and working conditions committees will be looking at this information very carefully during their meetings to develop proposals for next year's TV/Theatrical contract negotiations."