Show's lost sheen hurts biz
The end to production of "Two and a Half Men" could affect local businesses dependent on off-screen workers.
BURBANK, CA. - OCT. 22, 2009: For seven seasons, Angus T. Jones has been the half in Two and a Half Men. The child actor has grown up on set and just turned 16. Never a stage kid, the producers of the show called him in to audition after seeing him on The Rookie. They auditioned no one else. Angus talks with Charlie Sheen between shooting scenes for the show. (Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times)
“The entertainment industry isn’t just people in front of the camera,” Maurice Stein, owner of Burbank’s Cinema Secrets Beauty Supply, said. “When a show shuts down for any reason, we lose business immediately.”
His emporium is three blocks from Warner Bros., where Sheen and a crew of 200 produced “Two and a Half Men” before the actor’s recurrent substance abuse recovery issues and public rants prompted studio executives to stop production of the CBS show.
While Stein’s company may directly work for Warner Bros. and other studios, the foot traffic that production work generates is a huge chunk of his business. Nearly two-thirds of his business comes from off-screen workers buying cosmetics, shampoo or Halloween costumes, he said.
“They don’t all live in Burbank,” Stein said. “They are not going to drive 10 or 35 miles to buy personal grooming items.”
Warner Bros. has taken steps to lessen the impact of the debacle. Paul McGuire, a Warner Bros. spokesman, confirmed Tuesday that the studio will pay the roughly 200 people on the “Two and a Half Men” crew for four of the eight shows cancelled this year.
Representatives of several entertainment unions did not return calls regarding the impact on their members. But many outside jobs depend on hit TV shows.
“The real financial tragedy will be the wardrobe people, makeup people, catering and craft service people and all the other crew who depend on this salary who had no warning to prepare themselves,” Laura Walsh, owner of Burbank casting firm Central Artists, said in an e-mail.
Caterers do not get paid for days when shooting is cancelled and may not be reimbursed for purchases they made in advance, said Jeri Starks, owner of Big Bites Craft Services in North Hollywood, which wasn’t working for Sheen’s show. She has learned to make contingency plans when she hears about trouble on the set.
“When you see these things happen, you kind of prepare yourself and call people to say ‘I’m available’ to get your name out there again,” she said.
For the businesses rooted in feeding off the foot traffic buzz generated by successful shows, the absence can be harder to overcome.
“The industries that depend on consumer spending are immediately affected, said Don Nakamoto, a labor force specialist with the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board in Glendale.
“The local hangouts, the restaurants will feel some of that,” he said.
Priscilla’s Gourmet Coffee and Tea, a short walk from Warner Bros., has been used as a shooting location for “Desperate Housewives” and other shows. But owner Shannon Hartman said off-screen workers are key to her business.
“Where we will feel it is from the people who are on the lot,” she said.
But Hartman, Stein and others say the fallout from “Two and a Half Men” will not approach the catastrophe in 2007 and 2008, when the Writers Guild of America strike halted production for several months. The protracted recession has also had a significant impact.
Still, they said, the apparent demise of “Two and a Half Men” hurts just the same.
“Here we are, climbing out of this hole, then something like this happens,” Stein said. “Another rung on the ladder is broken and you slip down a little more.”