After four decades of entertaining late-night TV viewers from its studio in Burbank, "The Tonight Show" might be returning to its birthplace on the East Coast, which could be bad news for local businesses that have counted on the show's staff and audiences.
NBC is considering handing over the 11:35 p.m. time slot to Jimmy Fallon, who tapes his “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” in New York City. Host Jay Leno's contract for “The Tonight Show” ends in September 2014, but there have been suggestions that the change may happen earlier.
Robert Shapiro, general manager at Milt & Edie's Drycleaners, located just down Alameda Avenue from NBC, said losing “The Tonight Show” would mean a reduction in customers.
“We do get a Christmas card from Jay Leno every year, and we have done work for guests [on the show],” Shapiro said. “And you also have the people who [do] sound [and] lighting who come in here as well.”
Shapiro said that around 25% of Milt & Edie's business comes from entertainment industry clients, and when TV and film work leaves Burbank, service-oriented businesses are often adversely impacted.
Jay Sadofski, owner of Mo's restaurant, said his business is frequently filled with lunch orders from staff members of “The Tonight Show,” so its departure would be bad news.
“I do feed the staff and the writers, and they do bits in the neighborhood, location stuff … there's nothing good about it,” he said.
Sadofski said that he had already seen a detrimental impact to local businesses when NBC began shifting production to its Universal City facilities, and “The Tonight Show” leaving would be more of the same.
“It's bad, it's certainly not helpful to lose the last of anything related to NBC,” he said. “Any time there's an exit of potential customers, especially studios … it's sad to see them go.”
Located near “The Tonight Show” studio, Dimples, a karaoke nightclub, draws from the crowd that leaves Leno's taping each night, and also from production employees, said owner Sal Ferraro.
“After the show, they all come in — groups of five, 10 people,” he said. “A lot of out-of-state people would come and enjoy [the show].”
City officials are also opposed to the show's possible relocation. Burbank Mayor Dave Golonski even jokingly threatened to go on a hunger strike in protest.
“Any time we lose jobs in the city, we don't want to see it,” said city spokesman Drew Sugars.
Sugars said that beyond the direct job losses from a “Tonight Show” relocation, Burbank would suffer from losing a promotional vehicle that has attracted tourists to the city for decades.
“‘The Tonight Show' has been a huge vehicle, a tradition of being part of Burbank,” Sugars said. “It presents a very favorable image of the city … and if they were to leave, that would certainly be a disappointment.”
Steven Ross, chapter president of the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, Local 53, said only nine of the roughly 40 union workers on the show are staff employees who would be placed in other jobs.
Ross said other union employees — classified as daily workers — and around 150 non-union workers on “The Tonight Show” would likely be laid off if the production were to move to New York.
Ross said the potential move was just the latest development in NBC's exit from Burbank, which he has seen happening gradually during the past 38 years.
“To see it in its heyday, we had 18 to 20 shows we were doing out of Burbank and now we're down to literally two shows — ‘The Tonight Show' and ‘Access Hollywood,'” Ross said.