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Hollywood actors to start voting this week on a new contract

For the past several months, production in Hollywood has been at a near standstill.

In May, thousands of movie and television writers went on strike, calling for better pay amid an explosion of streaming services that have upended the entertainment industry. In July, 160,000 actors joined the action — the first time that Hollywood writers and actors went on strike at the same time since 1960.

The Writers Guild of America, which represents 11,500 screenwriters, ended its 148-day strike in September after reaching an agreement with studios.

And last week, SAG-AFTRA, the union representing tens of thousands of actors, reached a tentative deal for a new contract with entertainment companies. That ends what was the longest movie and television strike in the union’s 90-year history and clears the way for the $134 billion U.S. movie and television business to swing back into business.

SAG-AFTRA said on Friday that its national board had voted to send a tentative contract with studios to members for ratification, a process that would start tomorrow and end the first week in December.

Fran Drescher, the union’s president, highlighted the "extraordinary scope" of the agreement, noting that it included protections around the use of artificial intelligence, higher minimum pay, better health care funding and more. The studio alliance called the deal historic, saying it reflected "the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union."

For the Golden State and beyond, the fallout from the dual strikes has been major.

California’s economy alone has lost more than $5 billion, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. Experts put the nationwide losses between $6 billion and $10 billion. (While the big studios are based in Los Angeles, they also use soundstage complexes in Georgia, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York.)

And though writers have been back at work for more than a month, and actors can return to work immediately, getting Hollywood up and running again won’t be easy with so many paused and delayed projects restarting at the same time, as my colleague Nicole Sperling reported.

"It’s a bit like all those ships that were stuck in the harbor during COVID because they couldn’t offload them fast enough," producer Todd Garner said. "They are just going to have to go through the canal one by one, and then it will catch up and resume again."

And even then, many people in Hollywood remain worried about the long-term prospects for the industry.

Studios are expected to cut production in the coming years, as they grapple with higher labor expenses and the end of the era of Peak TV, my colleague Brooks Barnes reported.

TV networks and streaming platforms ordered 40% fewer adult scripted series in the second half of 2022 than in the same period in 2019, Barnes reported. That decrease means cuts for not just the people who work directly on the shows but also for the hundreds of people, including agents, managers, publicists and stylists, who in turn fuel the broader economy.

"With the strike over, we’re all staring down the barrel of a painful structural adjustment that predates the strike," Zack Stentz, a screenwriter with credits like "X-Men: First Class" and "Thor," wrote on social media. "A lot of careers and even entire companies are going to go away over the next year."

(Published 13 November 2023, 17:09 IST)

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