EXCLUSIVE: When Covid vaccines became widespread in the US a few months ago, studios, talent agencies, management companies, law firms, and advertising firms were optimistic that the offices closed 16 months ago would be staffed again right after Labor Day. After the Delta variant caused alarming numbers of virus cases in Los Angeles and beyond, a sample of . shows that almost everyone has put their plans on hold.
A director of a large management company said, “Three or four weeks ago we personally reopened weeks in the office with a summer schedule of three days. We went back to Virtual a week later. As the old saying goes, we made plans and God laughed. “
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With the surge in positive Covid cases raging across Los Angeles even among the vaccinated, major agencies, studios and other Hollywood service companies are now trying to come up with new plans to reopen offices. Most got rid of September and hope to be able to regroup their troops at some point in the following month. At CAA, for example, it is said that the hope is now to reopen at least for the vaccinated employees in mid-October. That’s another thing Hollywood struggles with whether to leave the idea that vaccinating should be a personal choice.
Too many returned to work TV shows watch work stoppages due to Covid cases so anyone can feel comfortable with Covid vaccination treatment like elective surgery. Sean Penn has still not returned to Gaslit, the UPC-produced Watergate series for Starz, after, as . revealed, insisted that everyone on the production line be vaccinated, despite studios and unions agreeing to the vaccination rule only for those in close proximity to actors and directors. Such resistance from clout stars – Penn is vaccinated but feels keenly interested in the subject after his CORE has spent most of the 16 months administering tests and vaccines in LA and other cities – could well increase and that Advance the subject of vaccination even further.
This leaves Hollywood with a myriad of dilemmas, namely, how long can dealmakers and support staff work from home while they continue to pay high rents for the plush and empty Hollywood headquarters. There was another spike in cases last weekend as the county reported another 3,045 new positive cases and five new deaths on Sunday.
CAA said it had no return date set in stone, but it did have mid-October instead of September. Likewise, the LBI management informed its employees today by e-mail that “for reasons of caution” there was no longer any mandate to return to work in mid-September, the new date could well be in October. In the middle of September the LBI will provide the employees with another update.
This morning Sony Pictures Entertainment was among the first major studios to postpone the return of their employees from the week of September 7th to early mid-October while they continue to evaluate the situation of the Delta variant. In a communication from PES Chairman Tony Vinciquerra, he reiterated that returning workers will have the option of a flexible working week (ie three days in the office) until the end of the year.
WME opened an office on July 7th. After the surge, the agency closed on July 12th. The agency is back on the drawing board to find out when to reopen. APA had a soft opening on July 6th for employees who wanted to come voluntarily but did not set a binding return date. ICM Partners and Paradigm have also not found any definitive return dates.
On June 15, UTA opened its Los Angeles office as the first major agency. Now they still give employees a choice of whether to join, offer to opt-in or opt-out before the start of the month, and also ask how many days they think they will be. When you sign up, the agency requires that all employees be fully vaccinated or stay at home. Around 50% have chosen to come back so far. This does not necessarily reflect the likely higher number of vaccinated employees, just the number of returnees. No visitors are allowed at the moment. Since opening, the only major change after the surge is that all indoor staff must wear a mask that complies with the city’s mask mandate.
In addition to the mandatory repatriation, vaccination regulations are also being drawn up. Most want their employees to be stung, with the exception of those who cite religious reasons or health risks as a reason to stay away from the Covid shots. For those who volunteer in the office, CAA requires a mask and proof of vaccination, which will persist if the October reopening date is met. WME also follows the guidelines of California Governor Newsom and requires that those who come into the office get vaccinated, with religious / personal exceptions aside. The vaccination requirement is by no means new: studios are already demanding proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 24 hours tonight for entry to mass events like the premiere of The Suicide Squad in Westwood. They want positive word of mouth, not a super spreader event.
Management 360 employees, we hear, are almost 100% vaccinated, and the company allows employees to work freely in the office according to strict protocols. Like many talent reps, Management 360 has adapted well to working from home and through digital gatherings. Brillstein Entertainment Partners also mandates vaccination, which is not too much of a challenge as all employees have been vaccinated. BEP is still figuring out when to return, as is 3 Arts, which is still thinking about vaccinations but will likely insist and at least require the unvaccinated to wear masks. Range Media Partners hasn’t come up with a return to work plan, but their challenge is different from the rest: the thriving company that started during the pandemic and they are still figuring out what office space dealmakers will occupy.
The majority of the studios . contacted today remain in a wait and see mode when it comes to getting their staff back to work later in the year.
Not all studios have a set policy for vaccinations. Disney announced on Friday that they had made such a requirement for all employees and non-union workers on an hourly basis. Some Disney employees have returned to the Burbank, California property as part of their phased plan. When the rest will do this is not yet certain. Sony will – at least at this point – not enforce mandatory vaccinations for its returning employees.
Much like Disney, Universal continues with a voluntary summer soft return for employees as the studio follows local and industry-specific protocols. NBCU saw a small number of hands-on production and operations workers dropping out on Jan.
At the time of this writing, Warner Bros. is continuing a return in early September and has not disclosed what their Covid vaccination policy will be. Dune and Godzilla studio financier Legendary plans to return in September too, but it all depends on where the science is and the safety of the staff. Netflix has not publicly announced its plans to return to work, but there has been talk that it will be September. Last week, Netflix announced that actors and crew members of its productions would be vaccinated.
Just as the Labor Day reopenings were ruined, if the pandemic continues to rage, all of these plans will be changed because there are so many new Covid cases due to many choosing not to shut down the shots to get. The number of new Covid-related cases reported in Los Angeles County rose 80% last week. Last Monday, the 26th, 1,996 were reported in the county. By Friday, that number had reached 3,606.
The increase was driven by a more than five-fold increase in the number of cases among LA white residents, from 18 per 100,000 on June 19 to 83 per 100,000 on July 17, tripling the number of Latino residents.
Additionally, according to Los Angeles County’s public health director Barbara Ferrer, the gains were in wealthier, more industrialized communities on the West Side, including Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Beverly Crest, and Venice, as well as adjacent neighborhoods like Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Encino. The winter surge was driven by higher case numbers in Central LA. Not like this this time.
The current spike is alarmingly similar to the LA County’s spike last spring, which peaked on July 20, 2020 with 3,254 cases. However, this surge started at a higher level, has already surpassed the peak of last spring, and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.
Tom Tapp contributed to this article