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Striking actors agree deal with Hollywood studios

By AFP

November 9, 2023 09:49 AM


Representational image

Hollywood actors and studios reached a tentative deal Wednesday to end a months-long strike that has crippled the entertainment industry, delayed hundreds of popular shows and films, and cost billions to the US economy.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) called off its 118-day strike from midnight (0800 GMT Thursday) after finally reaching an agreement with the likes of Disney and Netflix for a new contract including higher pay, and protections against the use of artificial intelligence.

The announcement paves the way for actors to head back to movie sets, an end to picket lines outside studios, and a return to employment for thousands of other jobs linked to the entertainment industry.

"In a unanimous vote this afternoon, the SAG-AFTRA TV/Theatrical Committee approved a tentative agreement... bringing an end to the 118-day strike," a spokeswoman said in a statement to AFP.

In a message sent to union members, negotiators said the contract was valued at more than $1 billion and would enable members "to build sustainable careers."

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, said it was "pleased" to have reached a deal, and trumpeted a "brand new residual for streaming programs," without offering details. Residuals are long-term payments for shows after their initial release.

The deal still needs to be ratified by the union's board, and members. That process could take weeks, but the agreement is widely expected to pass.

- 'Incredible!' -

Talks between the two sides had taken place almost daily for the past two weeks, with CEOs of studios including Disney, Netflix, Warner and Universal often attending personally, as the clamor for a deal grew.

Given the duration of the strike, studios already face gaping holes in their release schedules for next year and beyond, while many out-of-work actors have struggled to make ends meet, been forced to find second jobs or quit the business altogether.

The news spread instantly across Hollywood, with celebrities expressing joy and relief.

"Incredible! I'm so happy we were all able to come to an agreement. Let's get back to work! Let's go! I'm so stoked," Zac Efron told reporters at a premiere for "The Iron Claw."

"PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF!" wrote Oscar winner Jamie Lee Curtis on Instagram.

- 'Fair agreement' -

SAG-AFTRA represents some 160,000 performers.

While Hollywood's elite stars earn millions, many less-known actors said it had become almost impossible to earn a decent living in recent years, as long-standing pay structures had failed to keep pace with inflation and industry changes.

When SAG-AFTRA walked out in mid-July, Hollywood writers were also on strike, although they have since resolved their own contract dispute.

It was the first time that the two unions had headed to the picket lines simultaneously since 1960, when actor (and future US president) Ronald Reagan led the protests.

Economists estimate the overall cost of the industry-wide Hollywood standstill at at least $6 billion, mainly from lost wages.

Studios, who have already delayed the release of major films such as "Dune: Part Two" and the next "Mission: Impossible" installment, will now be scrambling to restart productions on hit shows like "Stranger Things" in time for next year.

Given the vast backlog of productions waiting to resume, actors and soundstages are expected to be in high demand in the coming months, creating further bottlenecks for the industry.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass welcomed the "fair agreement" that had been reached, noting that the strikes had "impacted millions in Los Angeles and throughout the country."

"Now, we must lean in on local production to ensure that our entertainment industry rebounds stronger than ever and our economy is able to get back on its feet," she said in a statement.

- Residuals and AI -

In resolving the standoff, both sides compromised on minimum pay, settling on an increase from the previous contract of around eight percent.

That is less than actors originally wanted, but higher than writers obtained, and the biggest increase in decades.

An improved bonus structure for starring in hit shows or films was also eventually agreed.

The growth of streaming platforms, who typically pay minimal "residuals" when a hit show gets rewatched, had severely eroded actors' incomes, so the new provision on that front will be welcome news for performers.

AI proved a major sticking point in the final stretch of negotiations, as actors fear the technology could be used to clone their voices and likenesses.

SAG-AFTRA said the agreement includes "unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI."

Full details of the deal will be published following a SAG-AFTRA board meeting to review the terms on Friday, the union said.


AFP


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