(Los Angeles) Will the actors shut down the American audiovisual industry? Hollywood was still on edge on Wednesday in the face of a probable social movement by actors, likely to join the screenwriters on strike and seriously handicap the promotion of summer blockbusters.
Despite the extension of talks between SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, and the studios and streaming platforms for ten days, little progress seems to have been made in agreeing on a new remuneration grid and a framework for using artificial intelligence.
A small group of bosses appealed to the government in Washington to send mediators. But despite the union’s consent to such mediation, relations remain tense and the prospect of a strike is approaching.
“We will explore and exhaust all avenues to reach an agreement, but we are not convinced that the employers intend to negotiate,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement late Tuesday.
The organization also pointed out that “time is running out” and denounced a “cynical ploy” by employers, “aiming to obtain an extension” while studios and platforms “have had more than enough time to reach a fair deal”.
Without an agreement or a new extension at midnight Los Angeles time, the 160,000 actors and other film professionals represented by SAG-AFTRA would find themselves on strike. They would thus come to swell the ranks of screenwriters, already at a standstill for more than two months.
A double social movement bringing together actors and screenwriters would be a first in Hollywood since 1960, when Ronald Reagan led a major strike that led to major concessions from the studios and consecrated the political stature of an actor who later became President of the United States.
This move could bring the industry, which is already idling due to the writers’ strike, to its knees.
Because actors can freeze not only productions based on scripts already completed before May, but also the promotion of blockbusters expected in theaters this summer, such as the highly anticipated Oppenheimer by Christopher Nolan.
Only a few “talk shows” and reality TV shows could continue.
Faced with this prospect, concern is growing among professionals. Powerful agency heads – the bosses of the representatives who negotiate for the actors – have come forward to smooth the negotiations.
The possibility of a prolonged absence from the big faces of Hollywood is becoming more and more credible, and the trade press is starting to seriously consider a summer without stars on the red carpets.
Comic-Con, the high mass of American geeks and comic book lovers, could thus take place without stars next week in San Diego. Without actors, the launch of Disney’s new movie, The Haunted Mansion, could be reduced to a “private event” for fans this weekend.
A strike would also mean a boycott of the Emmy Awards, the equivalent of the Oscars for television, scheduled for September 18. The production is already considering postponing the event to November, or even next year, according to the American press.
“We hope that the ongoing negotiations […] will quickly lead to an equitable solution,” Frank Scherma, president of the Emmy Voters Academy, said in announcing the nominations Wednesday morning. He said he was in favor of “a television industry that is firmly rooted in fairness”.
Like the screenwriters, the actors are demanding better compensation to fight inflation and guarantees against potential upheavals linked to artificial intelligence, such as voice cloning.
They protest in particular against the drop in their “residual” remuneration, due to each rerun of a film or series, caused by streaming. Significant during a television appearance, because based on the advertising model, these emoluments are much lower for the platforms, which do not communicate their audience figures.
The fall schedules of American television are already upset by the scriptwriters’ strike. On Tuesday, the Fox channel unveiled a schedule based on reality shows like Nightmare in the Kitchen or Lego Masters.
New seasons of many popular series are already experiencing significant delays. And if the actors join the strike, the release of future blockbusters could also suffer, because there are long months between the end of a shoot and the cinema release.