AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Staff Writer Television and movie screenwriters said Thursday they will go on strike for the first time in nearly 20 years. Four writers told The Associated Press that Writers Guild of America President Patric Verrone made the announcement in a closed-door session Thursday night, prompting loud cheers from the crowd. “There was a unified feeling in the room. I don’t think anyone wants the strike, but people are behind the negotiation committee,” said writer Dave Garrett. Writers were expected to announce when the strike would begin sometime today. HOLLYWOOD: Walkout announcement is expected today. Late-night television talk shows would immediately go dark. By Julia M. Scott Still, Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers president Nick Counter released a statement indicating a strike could still be averted. “We are ready to meet and are prepared to close this contract this weekend,” he said. At issue is how writers will be paid for new media such as DVD sales and digital downloads and how writers for reality shows should be compensated. Both sides are gearing for a fight. If a strike comes, television viewers will immediately notice a difference. Late-night talk shows that feed off current events and require fresh writing will go dark immediately. Production of television dramas and comedies such as “Heroes” and “Ugly Betty” will grind to a halt, but studios that have stockpiled episodes will continue to shoot and air them. Reality shows and commercials, however, will continue uninterrupted. Writers and actors have been fighting for years to reverse what they see as a huge mistake made at the dawn of home video, when no one was sure if selling movies on VHS cassettes would ever make money. The unions agreed to ignore the first 80 percent of revenue from the tapes and later DVDs, assuming most of the money represented the cost of manufacturing and distribution. Writers settled for just 1.2 percent of the remaining 20percent, a figure that amounts to about 3 cents on a DVD that retails for $20. Writers are now asking for their share to be calculated on 40 percent of revenue and argue the same formula should be used for digital distribution because studios have almost no costs associated with that technology. Studios argue that it is too early to know how much money they can make from offering entertainment on the Internet, cell phones, iPods and other devices. The impact of a strike could be substantial. It could cost more than $1 billion in lost wages, experts said. “You could have a very localized recession,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. But that’s only if the strike drags on for two or three months. David Smith, an associate dean at the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University, agreed. “It’s not a strong possibility right now but something to keep on the radar screen,” he said. A five-month strike like one in 1988, which cost $500million in lost wages, would easily amount to between $1billion and $2billion in lost wages now, Kyser said. A contract covering 12,000 workers expired late Wednesday night without a new deal. Members have already voted – by a 9-to-1 ratio – to let leaders call a strike if negotiations fail. In 2001, actors worked for two months without a contract, but it’s unclear whether writers will go that route. The motion picture industry is the third-largest employer in the county and a strike would reach far beyond a picket line of writers. The industry’s lucrative salaries mean that one entertainment job supports or creates 1.5 nonentertainment jobs. Businesses that feed off studio salaries, such as restaurants in Studio City and Burbank, are already hurting. At Big Screen Cuisine in Burbank, owner Scott Floman is bracing for the worst. “If they strike, it’s going to definitely take a turn into our business,” Floman said. About 70 percent of his catering sales come from feeding staffers on the set of movies and television shows. If a strike comes, Floman immediately will ask his head chef to “go lean and mean” with the staff, cutting back their hours so he does not have to let anybody go. Staff Writers David Kronke, Harrison Sheppard and Rick Orlov and The Associated Press contributed to this story.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!