By Isaac Butler
Equity has alerted its membership that they are changing the 99-Seat Plan. Well, really, they're eliminating it, but the changes are not quite as drastic as the original proposal. Here are my takeaways from looking over the materials Equity's distributed:
(1) Until May 13th, 2016, 99-seat plan theaters can use the "Los Angeles Transitional 99-Seat Plan" which is, essentially, identical to the current plan.
(2) AEA has kept the new, expanded self-production exemption. SO long as you don't incorporate (or use a fiscal sponsor) you can produce a show using AEA actors without a contract.
(3) AEA is also expanding the member company exemption. In the original proposal, member companies that existed before 2/6/2015 and registered their company by 4/1/2015 could use Equity actors without a contract SO LONG AS they had worked with those actors before. Now Member companies (with eligibility determined by the same dates) can work with any Equity actor without a contract.
(4) The 99-Seat Plan will be replaced by three separate plans. The first is "The Los Angeles 50-Seat Showcase Code." If your theater has 50 seats or fewer, you can produce up to three shows a season as a showcase. No more than 16 perfs, budget not to exceed $20K. Looks like the rules will be similar to to the NYC showcase code.
(5) The second is the new 99-Seat Agreement. This will have no limit on length of performance runs, number of weeks of rehearsal, or ticket price, but actors must be paid a weekly salary of no less than minimum wage. No pension and health contributions required.
(6) The third thing they are doing is bringing the Small Professional Theater agreement to LA. If you are in a theater with fewer than 350 seats, you can work under the SPT agreement, you must pay actors between $229-$664 a week depending on the maximum number of performances per week. You must also contribute to pension and health. No limits on length of runs, rehearsal period or ticket price.
(7) The HAT plan is staying exactly as it was and applies only to theaters with 350-999 seats.
I actually think this strikes a good balance between the union's priorities and the concerns of membership. I understand that procedurally people are going to be angry that Equity didn't simply scrap everything and start by coming to the bargaining table. And that's a debate worth having, but I hope that won't distract from the substance of what they've proposed. In particular, the expanded Member Company exemption is huge and means that many existing companies in good standing will not be seriously impacted by these changes, at least in the short term.
Someone has sent me the text of the new codes, I'll be looking over them tomorrow and writing something, assuming this cold I'm currently laid out with doesn't kill me.