Obama touts entertainment industry at DreamWorks Animation in Glendale

After touring DreamWorks Animation and meeting film industry representatives, President Obama told a crowd of about 2,000 people at the company’s expansive Glendale campus on Tuesday that the entertainment industry has been a bright spot during a protracted financial crisis.

“This is one of America’s economic engines,” Obama said, adding that U.S. officials should strive to keep it that way by giving the industry a competitive edge.

PHOTOS: President Obama visits DreamWorks Animation in Glendale

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the motion picture, sound recording and broadcasting industries added 4,100 jobs in October, or a 0.6% increase.

Since the end of the recession, those industries have added 9,500 jobs, or a 5.5% hike, according to the bureau.

Also, DreamWorks’ employment base has risen by nearly 50% since Jan. 1, 2008, company officials said.

While Obama said entertainment is one of the country’s biggest exports, tax incentives are still luring productions away from Hollywood and even out of the country, causing growing concern for industry insiders and local political officials.

Before Obama’s speech, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), whose congressional district includes Glendale, said the federal government can take several steps to improve the film industry — extend tax breaks, protect against piracy and open traditionally limited markets, such as China, which caps screenings of American films.

“At the end of the day, the studios want to stay here…but they need to go where it’s competitive,” Schiff said.

In addition to federal incentives, state lawmakers also need to improve California’s tax incentives to keep jobs in the state, Schiff said. He plans to host a forum next month with state lawmakers and local officials to discuss a more productive tax-incentive program.

Obama was invited to speak at DreamWorks by one of his top donors, the studio’s chief executive, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and he joked that he’d enjoy working at the Mediterranean-style facility and can’t wait to see DreamWorks’ next movie.

While the president’s main focus was the economy — including the improvement of the manufacturing industry and wireless infrastructure — he covered several topics during his roughly 30-minute speech, including the entertainment industry’s role in diplomacy and a need to refrain from glorifying gun violence.

He also encouraged Republicans to work with Democrats to pass legislation that creates jobs, rather than bicker about healthcare reform.

“This is a fight we’re going to keep fighting because it’s worth fighting,” Obama said of his healthcare law that’s been under fire due to rollout glitches. He’s willing to fix issues, but he will not abandon the policy, he said.

As much as DreamWorks, with its box-office hits such as “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda” signifies an American success story, it has also had sweeping impacts on Glendale’s local economy. The company helped attract other entertainment-related companies to a city that has been beefing up its creative core over the past two decades.

City officials gave the industry a nod when they crafted Glendale’s new tagline: “Your Life. Animated.”

The DreamWorks facility along Flower Street was a joint project with Glendale back in the 1990s that included a $3 million investment from the now-defunct Glendale Redevelopment Agency. Glendale gave DreamWorks a 15-year development deal, which officials extended in 2011 by five years.

“Entertainment and creative jobs [are] what we try to encourage,” Councilman Frank Quintero said before Obama spoke. Other city officials at address were Mayor Dave Weaver and Councilmen Ara Najaran and Zareh Sinanyan.

Filming projects ranging from commercials to television shows have been on the upswing in the city, too. So much so that City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian plans to request a special position for a film permit liaison next month.

Obama said cooperation is key to a bright future.

“We should be able to sit down together and to keep dreaming and to keep working and to make sure that the American dream that has been described here in Southern California is sustained for generations to come,” Obama said.

-- Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

Follow on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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