Tuesday, March 23, 1999

Much depends on
‘Baywatch’ talks

Bullet The issue: Hawaii's film industry had a record year in 1998, but isn't doing as well in 1999.
Bullet Our view: 'Baywatch' negotiations could make or break the industry's year.

HAWAII had a banner year in television and film production in 1998, with revenues soaring 39 percent from the previous year to a record $99.1 million. However, that performance is unlikely to be matched this year. Much depends on the outcome of negotiations to bring the TV series "Baywatch" to Hawaii. If those negotiations fail, the outlook for the film industry this year is bleak.

Figures compiled by the Star-Bulletin show that two television series filmed here, "Fantasy Island" and "Wind on Water," generated about $20 million in revenues. Various other TV productions brought in an additional $10.5 million. Feature films generated about $12 million and commercials $5.8 million. The remainder came from television coverage of sports events, in-house corporate filming and other productions.

Both "Fantasy Island" and "Wind on Water" were canceled, and production so far this year has been slow compared to 1998. That makes the "Baywatch" negotiations all the more important for the local industry.

However, the deal apparently hinges on wage and other concessions by the Teamsters, which represents the drivers for the production. Teamsters Local 399 in Hollywood is balking at the "Baywatch" demands. The show's producers may decide to film in Australia if they can't get their terms in Hawaii.

The state is eager to host "Baywatch," which has an enormous international audience and would be invaluable promotion for Hawaii tourism. The Cayetano administration has been bending over backwards to accommodate the show, including financing for proposed film studio improvements. But the union negotiations are beyond the state's control. And the Teamsters leaders have to be concerned about undercutting their California members.

The state has to make it clear that it wants to cooperate with producers considering filming here, which it has done in the case of "Baywatch." Hawaii has long been an attractive site for movie-making and in the future could do even more. But it can't be assumed that producers will always get the concessions they want from the unions.


Caucasus bombings

Bullet The issue: Unrest in outlying regions is endangering Russia's stability.
Bullet Our view: The West must continue to provide support.

FRUSTRATED in its move toward a market economy, Russia also must cope with unrest in outlying regions torn by ethnic and religious rivalries. The Caucasus region's turbulence was punctuated last week by a bombing that killed 52 people. Support from the West is needed for Russia to deal with its unraveling, both economically and politically.

The shopping-market bombing in the capital of North Ossetia followed the March 5 kidnapping of a senior Russian official in Grozny, the capital of the adjoining region of Chechnya. On Sunday, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov narrowly averted assassination when a mine exploded in Grozny seconds after his car drove past. Maskhadov said afterward that the assassination attempt was aimed at "trying to destabilize the situation in the Caucasus by any means" and upsetting parliamentary elections scheduled for December.

A two-year war with separatists in Chechnya ended in a standoff in 1996, with Chechens claiming independence and Moscow insisting Chechnya is part of Russia. There have been discussions about Maskhadov meeting with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov to ease tensions. Russian officials have suggested the recent attacks were aimed at preventing such a meeting, but the government has been unable to identify the specific group or groups to blame for the violence.

The incidents precede Primakov's arrival in Washington this week to seek approval of several billion dollars in credits to Russia from the International Monetary Fund. The U.S.-controlled IMF is skeptical because of the debilitating effect that organized crime and government corruption have had on Russia's progress toward a free market.

More is at stake than economic privatization. Abandonment of Russia by the West at this juncture could bring unrest across other regions of the vast Russian Federation and a free-for-all among factions vying for the Soviet nuclear arsenal left over from the Cold War.


Brewer Building

Bullet The issue: Preserving an architectural treasure
Bullet Our view: The University of Phoenix has made an important contribution.

HIGHER education is adding historical preservation to its achievements in downtown Honolulu. The University of Phoenix purchased the 70-year-old C. Brewer Building on the Fort Street Mall when the company moved its headquarters to Hilo. It has given the building, one of Honolulu's architectural treasures, a face lift, seeking to restore its original appearance.

Architect Janine Shinoki Clifford removed the cubicles that had been added over the years and gave the building back its open spaces. Paint was stripped from the rotunda floor. Low acoustical tiles were taken out, revealing the original ohia ceilings.

Grace Blodgett, vice president of the University of Phoenix Hawaii campus, said, "I don't feel we've been saviors quite. We are but the caretakers for the next generation."

Whatever you call it, the university's effort is an important contribution.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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