Television and movie screenwriters said Thursday they will go on strike for the first time in nearly 20 years, which economists said could push the San Fernando Valley into a recession if it lasts for several months. 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. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.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. The strike, threatened to resolve a dispute over royalties, could cost more than $1billion 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,” Smith 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 9:1 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. 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. 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. The wait for a table at Lala’s Argentine Grill in Studio City, which is around the corner from CBS, has dropped noticeably. During the lunch rush, hungry diners used to wait 20 minutes. Now, it’s no more than five. “Three weeks ago or four weeks ago it slowed down really bad,” said manager Dario Sedani. “We are selling half of what we used to sell.” 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 70percent 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. Elected officials have mostly stayed away from the dispute.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!