Trying to decipher the ongoing double strike in Hollywood, involving both writers and actors, can be likened to peering into a perplexing crystal ball. On one hand, the unions exhibit remarkable solidarity, while on the other, the AMPTP has undergone changes in crisis PR firms and denied rumors of division within its ranks.
But questions abound. Here are four key inquiries, along with the information available.
- Current Status of the Hollywood Strikes
As of now, both the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) remain on strike due to a labor dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), representing major Hollywood studios and production companies. The WGA strike began on May 2, marking its longest-ever duration, while SAG-AFTRA started striking on July 14. These prolonged strikes have had significant economic consequences, affecting not only the striking workers but also the wider industry.
The studios are also feeling the financial strain, exemplified by Warner Bros. Discovery’s projection of a $300 million to $500 million earnings hit in 2023, despite the success of their film “Barbie.”
Recent announcements suggest that negotiations between the AMPTP and the WGA are set to resume, offering a glimmer of hope for resolution. If an agreement is reached between the writers and the studios, it may serve as a blueprint for the actors, potentially bringing an end to the strikes.
However, the strikes could persist as well.
- Drew Barrymore’s Role in the Strikes
In a whirlwind of events, Drew Barrymore initially declared that her popular talk show would continue airing without its writers, in compliance with strike rules, drawing criticism. She later posted an emotional response to the backlash, which was subsequently removed. On September 17, just before the show’s scheduled return, she reversed her decision, stating that the show would remain off the air until the WGA strike concludes. Other shows, such as The Jennifer Hudson Show and The Talk, also delayed their return.
To clarify the situation, it’s essential to note that while Barrymore is a member of SAG-AFTRA, her show operates outside of the contract SAG-AFTRA is striking over. Refusing to appear on her show could potentially lead to a contractual dispute with the network. However, her show is subject to the WGA contract, and her plan to proceed without writers raised questions about what constitutes “writing” and whether participating in the show amounts to scabbing. Barrymore seems to have reconsidered her stance.
It’s worth noting that other talk show hosts contemplated returning to the air during the strikes, with varying reactions. The View, for instance, continued airing despite its writers being on strike, resulting in pickets. Bill Maher announced the return of his show but later decided to delay it.
This situation draws parallels with the 2007-08 strike when various talk show hosts made different choices regarding their shows and writers.
- Why Doesn’t the AMPTP Meet Demands?
The question of why the AMPTP doesn’t simply meet the demands of the unions is a common one. However, the answer lies in the complex nature of the industry. Hollywood studios and production companies are often part of larger corporations and tech companies, each with unique business models. These corporations prioritize profit and revenue differently from the individuals who earn salaries.
The AMPTP, unlike the unions, is not a union but an association representing competitive companies, such as Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, and Apple, negotiating contracts with the unions. These companies have varying stakes in the industry. While some, like Apple, view content as a smaller part of their overall operations, traditional studios like Disney heavily rely on movies and TV for their brand identity and profitability.
If the strike persists, it could potentially harm both Silicon Valley companies and traditional studios, but the impact on the latter might be more severe. This has led to speculations that some companies may see an opportunity to weaken their competitors during the strike. The AMPTP’s messaging may appear inconsistent because of differing interests within the organization.
- When Will the Strikes Affect the General Public?
The effects of the strikes have already reverberated through various aspects of the entertainment industry. Events like the Emmys and movie release dates have been rescheduled, and some stars have avoided promoting struck work. However, most films are maintaining their original release schedules.
The most noticeable impact will likely be felt during the fall TV season, where some scripted shows remain on the schedule, while others have been postponed. Late-night talk shows have not returned yet, and reality shows and game shows, not covered by the striking contracts, have filled the programming gap. A24, a non-AMPTP member, secured waivers for its productions, potentially influencing awards season.
Ultimately, the strikes’ consequences depend on their duration. If negotiations fail, the strikes could have a more pronounced and lasting impact on Hollywood and its audience.