The union representing more than 150,000 television and film actors announced Thursday it would strike at midnight, joining screenwriters who walked out in May and creating Hollywood’s first industry-wide shutdown in 63 years.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why do the actors and writers strike?
Pay is often at the center of work stoppages, and that is the case here. But the rise of streaming and the challenges created by the pandemic have stressed the studios, many of which are facing financial challenges, as well as actors and writers seeking better pay and new protections in a rapidly changing workplace.
Both actors and screenwriters demanded increased residual payments (a type of royalty) from streaming services. Stream series typically have far fewer episodes than television series typically did. And it used to be that if a television series was a success, actors and writers could count on a long stream of regular residual checks; streaming changed the system in a way they say hurt them. Both groups also want to aggressively fence around the use of artificial intelligence to preserve jobs.
A-list actors last month signed a letter to guild leadership saying they were ready to strike and calling this moment “an unprecedented inflection point in our industry.”
What is the position of the Hollywood studios?
The Alliance of Film and Television Producers, which represents major studios and streamers, said it offered “historic pay and residual increases” as well as higher limits on pension and health contributions. They also say their offer includes hearing protections, a “groundbreaking” artificial intelligence offering and other benefits that address the union’s concerns.
The Hollywood studios also emphasized that the whole industrial upheaval was not easy for them either. As moviegoers slowly returned to theaters and home viewers switched from cable and network television to streaming entertainment, many studios saw their stock prices fall and their profit margins shrink. Some companies resorted to layoffs or pulled projects — or both.
What will happen to my TV shows and movies?
It will take some time for moviegoers to notice a change, as most of the movies scheduled for release this year have already been filmed. But TV viewers are already seeing the effects of the strike, and if it continues, popular shows could see their next seasons delayed.
Late night shows are already airing reruns due to the writers’ strike, and the vast majority of TV and film productions have already stopped or paused production. Big names show like “yellow jackets,” “Separation“and”Stranger Things” stopped work after the writers’ strike began; it is not yet clear if their next seasons will be delayed.
Disney announced several changes to its theatrical release schedule in June, in the middle of the writers’ strike.
Now, the actors’ strike will add even more anxiety.
During the first two weeks of July, no written TV permits were issued in Los Angeles, according to FilmLA, which tracks production activity. Movies and TV shows that have finished filming and are already in post-production can likely stay on schedule, since the work that remains doesn’t usually involve writers or actors.
Participating in either a film or television production with any of the studios is now off the table, with few exceptions. And that means that in a few months — starting with the fall lineup — viewers will begin to notice broader changes to their TV diet.
ABC’s fall schedule, for example, will debut with nightly lineups that include “Celebrity Wheel of Fortune,” “Dancing With the Stars” and “Judge Steve Harvey” as well as reruns of “Abbott Elementary.” The Fox broadcast network’s fall lineup includes unscripted series such as “Celebrity Name That Tune,” “The Masked Singer” and “Kitchen Nightmares.”
How long could this last?
If only we knew.
Writers have been on strike for more than 70 days, and their union, the Writers Guild of America, has not yet returned to bargaining with the studios.
The last time the writers and actors went on strike at the same time was in 1960, when Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Screenwriters have walked out several times, sometimes for long periods: Their 2007 strike lasted 100 days. The actors last staged an important emigration in 1980; it lasted more than three months.
What about the promotion of current shows and movies?
Soon, officials said there will be no promotion of current projects, either online or in person. Don’t expect to hear Ryan Gosling promoting “Barbie” again anytime soon. A ban on advertising could be very bad news for the San Diego Comic-Con, upcoming film festivals in places like Venice and Toronto, and scheduled film premieres like the “Oppenheimer” premiere scheduled for Monday in New York.
The 75th Emmy Awards, which announced its nominations yesterday, may now be in jeopardy. Organizers have already had discussions about postponing the September 18 ceremony, likely by months.
Nicole Sperling and John Koblin contributed reporting.