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New report finds Hollywood pumps billions into US art and culture economy

Hollywood leads the way in government's new look at the economic value of arts and culture.
Hollywood leads the way in government's new look at the economic value of arts and culture.
Alex Pitt Photography (via The Hollywood Sign Trust)

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Just how much do arts and culture contribute to U.S. economic growth? The federal government has decided it wants to know – every year.

On Thursday, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released estimates from the first Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA).

It showed that $504 billion or 3.2 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2011 was attributable to arts and culture. Not surprisingly, Hollywood played a leading role.

The motion picture and video industries contributed more than $47 billion in value to the economy in 2011.  Advertising placed second with $41 billion, followed by Cable TV production and distribution, and television and radio broadcasting.

 "Our agencies got together and said let’s try to find a way to identify all of those goods and services, those commodities and industries within the economy that represent arts and cultural production," says Sunil Iyengar, Director of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts.

He says economists, researchers, policy makers and people who work in creative industries have long understood that government reports weren’t capturing the value of arts and culture.  "The saying is, 'how do you value it if you don’t measure it?" says Iyengar.

 The report includes data from a wide range of fields, from performing arts like theater, dance and circuses, to arts education, museums, publishing and interior design.    The motion picture and video industries category is part of the sprawling information sector, which also includes software, books, newspaper, and internet publishing.

"The trick was to capture the movie elements, whether it has to do with filmmaking or distribution, and put a name to it and start tracking those elements on a regular basis," Iyengar says. "That’s what this account will allow us to do."

"It’s important that people realize how important the film and television industry has been," said Former Senator Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America.  Dodd told KPCC  the report comes at an appropriate time, when the world is examining the importance of content and intellectual property, and the film and television industry is increasingly able to market its products overseas.

"In China, they’re building 13 movie screens a day," says Dodd. "Now, China is also increasing its production capacity, but the majority of people showing up for movies -- over 50 percent in China -- are to see U.S. products coming in."

The motion picture and video industries also led the numbers in terms of employment.   In 2011, the account says, the category was responsible for 310,000 jobs, out of the 2 million people estimated to work in creative industries.