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Movie Money: Where Are Entertainment Wages Post-Recession?


Did you go to the movie theater more during the recession? What about buying video games or board games? They say that people spend a little more on entertainment during economic downturns because it makes the hard times a little easier. If this is true, then movie makers and those working in the entertainment industry should have seen a nice salary boost in the last few years.

As the Salary Reporter, I decided to investigate whether or not the arts and entertainment industry really saw any wage increases, or at least not major drops in wages, during the recession using the The PayScale Index.

The PayScale Index measures total compensation (tips and bonuses included) of full-time, private-industry employees. It checks to see if, from one year to the next, there is a change in what a person with the exact same level of experience, doing the same work, is paid. These calculations are done on a quarterly basis.

If you look at wage trends in the arts and entertainment industry since 2006, you'll see that the rosy times expected did not play out. Here is what happened.

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After staying just 0.5 percent behind the national averages for all of 2007 and 2008, wages in entertainment and recreation actually dropped significantly as the recession worsened in 2009.

The net result is that pay in entertainment hit a peak in Q4 2008, then declined through Q2 2009. Unfortunately for workers in the entertainment industry, this pay level has remained largely unchanged and, as of Q3 2010, is about 1 percent below national compensation trends.

The following is The PayScale Index chart for arts and entertainment industry wage trends versus national and it shows you the story.


Quarterly Compensation Trends for Arts, Entertainment & Recreation

The PayScale Index uses 2006 average total cash compensation as a baseline.
Arts, Entertainment & Recreation
National (US)
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Compensation Data Provided by PayScale, Inc.


So, movie makers did not see a boost in wages during our hard economic times. In fact, they have seen the opposite. We'll have to wait for next quarter's result to find out if wages for the movie and game crowd go up.

In the meantime, let's look at what people in arts and entertainment actually earn. We can look at salary data for some of the major employers in this industry and also common jobs.

The Walt Disney Company


NBC Universal, Inc.

Producer-Director, TV/Cable Broadcast

Audio/Video Equipment Technician

Voice Actor/Actress

Radio Show Host

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