Multiple sources confirmed this week that the studios will give until next week for a resolution of the 2023 SAG-AFTRA, after which they will end talk for the year because of the union giving more and more demands.
The SAG-AFTRA strike, which started on July 14th and has currently lasted 105 days, has been at a standstill with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for months. Negotiations over better residual fees for streaming service programs, overall better pay, and strict regulation on the use of artificial intelligence have been slow to progress, mirroring the first several months of the largely concurrent WGA strike.
A new agreement with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) last month, which ended the 146-day long WGA strike, had brought new hope for a quick end to the actors strike, with many experts saying that it could only take a week or so to settle. Talks officially began again on October 6th. However, while things looked promising at first, talks took a turn on October 11th when the actors union presented their latest proposal. Their new proposal included huge viewership bonuses for actors that would cost studios over $800 million a year as well as a 2% streaming revenue-sharing proposal that would give those funds to SAG-AFTRA members in the production. In addition, the union wanted a $1 set fee per subscriber and larger minimum wage increases.
The studios walked away, leaving the union fuming. A group of actors, including George Clooney, subsequently proposed their own deal, only for it to be shot down by SAG-AFTRA head Fran Drescher. After two weeks of no meetings, talks between the sides restarted this week because of pressure from actors within the union. However, studios soon made it clear that an agreement needed to be made in the next week to salvage what remained of the fall schedule and all partially completed productions. Specifically, no new productions could be started by next year if an agreement isn’t in place.
With the stakes high for both sides, as the union faces more and more of their members running out of savings and having to rely on side jobs to make ends meet, and studios losing billions during the strike, the AMPTP introduced their latest offer on Tuesday. To the surprise of many, SAG-AFTRA negotiators took Wednesday to review the offer, leading many to believe that it was seriously considering taking it.
By this time, the studios plan on delaying negotiations to next year if a quick resolution wasn’t met came out. A group of several thousand actors calling themselves Members in Solidarity quickly formed in response. The group, whose member include Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jon Hamm, and Bryan Cranston, stated in a latter that they would rather remain on strike for that long rather than take a bad deal.
“We have not come all this way to cave now,” the letter said. “We have not gone without work, without pay and walked picket lines for months just to give up on everything we’ve been fighting for. We cannot and will not accept a contract that fails to address the vital and existential problems that we all need fixed.”
Counteroffers to Counteroffers
This led to SAG-AFTRA announcing that they had made their own counter-offer, going into Friday’s meeting with the new offer on the table.
“Today, we passed a comprehensive counter across the table to the CEOs and while talks for the day have ended, our committee just completed working internally tonight. We are scheduled to meet across the table again tomorrow,” announced SAG-AFTRA on X.
Today, we passed a comprehensive counter across the table to the CEOs and while talks for the day have ended, our committee just completed working internally tonight.
We are scheduled to meet across the table again tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/4QElu7IEU1
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) October 27, 2023
However, the studios, facing mounting losses, made moves of their own, delaying many productions from 2024 release dates to 2025 dates. This included many Disney productions such as the Snow White Remake and Paramount productions such as the next Mission: Impossible movie.
With a deal becoming more and more urgent for both sides, entertainment and labor experts told the Globe on Friday that a deal is needed very quickly or else the industry is going to be in far worse shape than it already is going into 2024.
“The entertainment industry has faced COVID shutdowns, a decline of movie theater attendance, the WGA strike, and now this,” said Theresa Stevenson, an arbitrator in Michigan who has helped settled union disputes and strikes in the past. “They can’t afford any more big gaps in productions. Specifically, movies, as they have had diminishing returns all year outside of a few things like “Barbenheimer”. One the labor side of things, it has also been disastrous. Thousands of actors living in expensive cities like LA, New York, and Atlanta are suddenly facing eviction and no money left to float by on. California has lost billions in their economy, and many LA businesses like restaurants to movie supporting companies are now suffering.”
“Studios aren’t budging on giving much in streaming residuals, because they are already losing money for the most part. But actors have also said they have gone too far for a big compromise. At this point, neither side has to break first, and from an outside perspective, it is hard to say who it will be. Hopefully we’ll have a deal soon, but from my past experience, it is hard to come to a deal with both sides so dug in. The studios keep pulling out of meetings and the actors are divorced from reality on a lot of issues. In a situation like this, it is hard to see who gives in first.”
More on the strike is expected soon.
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