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Celebrities and Their Salaries

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Celebrities and Their Salaries

The President of the United States makes $200 000 a year. A Supreme Court justice gets $170 000. The average annual American household income is $34 076. And Steven Segal? He makes $10 million per picture. We want celebrities to be like us, and then we don't. We want them to inhabit a world of glamour, but we don't want them to be stuck up. We want to gaze at their big faces on the screen, yet it's our own narcissism we are feeding. Yet one thing's for sure - we don't like to hear about them making $10 million for lousy movies. For the most part, celebrities are not worth their enormous paychecks. Not only is it a ridiculous price to pay someone to stand in front of a camera but it has negative effects on the rest of the entertainment business. Due to the salary increases, production prices are rising, quality is lowering, and it is becoming increasingly harder for a television show or movie to become a hit.

Making money at the movies is problematic, though studios once thought star power was a surefire way to receive boffo box-office returns. These days star power is limited, and often meaningless, unless the film strikes a nerve with audiences. "There's no justification for any of these high salaries unless you get the actor in a film with a terrific idea," said an anonymous studio executive. "Look at Mr. Holland's Opus. The film was cheap. Richard Dreyfuss is no longer a star. But the idea counted." Yet studios continue to shell out for these big names, exploding the current price tag for the average studio film, including marketing and distribution to $60 million. The same is true for television programs such as Mad About You and The Simpsons. Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser, the stars of Mad About You demanded $1 million per episode this season (that's a $750 000 raise for both) and got it, raising their license fees 100 percent, to about $3 million. However, Mad About You is no ER, Seinfeld, or even Friends, the sitcom has never been a big hit and now in its sixth year its ratings are on the decline. There is also the case of the voices from The Simpsons demanding $150 000 per episode for only a two- day-a-week job. Of course, not everyone is being greedy. A few pricey actors (Stallone in Copland, Hanks in Forrest Gump) have been attempting to keep budgets low by forgoing huge upfront payments in exchange for a piece of the profits. Realize though that it is not only just a handful of actors who are receiving these inflated paychecks. As A-list actors salaries raise, in turn th pay scale for second-tier stars do too. Suddenly, a sidekick like Tom Arnold is making $1.5 million a movie. Though not everyone in Hollywood's salary has gone up. "The middle- class working professional actor in this industry is getting squeezed," says the Screen Actors Guild's president, Richard Masur. "The top levels are sucking all the money up, and everybody else is jammed in at the bottom. If it continues, it will destroy the working heart of the business."

It may be taking the heart out of the business but it is also affecting the quality of the movies being made. Movies used to be made when the material was ready to be produced. Today the studios are greenlighting a movie as soon as they can entice a marquee actor and a ...

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