The Actors Strike Is Over, Ending Hollywood’s Long Limbo
After 118 days on the picket lines, the guild that represents actors says it has reached a tentative agreement for a new contract, signaling the end of the paralysis that has plagued Hollywood for months. On Wednesday, SAG-AFTRA announced that it had unanimously voted to approve a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and would officially end the strike at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, November 9.
In an email to members on Wednesday night, SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee said that the new contract “will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers.” SAG-AFTRA is valuing its deal at more than $1 billion, telling members, “we have achieved a deal of extraordinary scope that includes ‘above-pattern’ minimum compensation increases, unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI, and for the first time establishes a streaming participation bonus.” The guild will release full details of the tentative agreement after it sends the deal to its national board for review on Friday. Members will then have the opportunity to vote to ratify the contract.
“Today’s tentative agreement represents a new paradigm,” the AMPTP said in its own statement released on Wednesday night. “It gives SAG-AFTRA the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union, including the largest increase in minimum wages in the last forty years; a brand new residual for streaming programs; extensive consent and compensation protections in the use of artificial intelligence; and sizable contract increases on items across the board. AMPTP is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement and looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories.”
Actors returning to work means that production can resume, revving up the content machines that have been dormant for nearly six months. The actors began striking on July 14th, joining the Writers Guild of America, which was already more than two months into its own strike. SAG-AFTRA could not come to an agreement with AMPTP at the time over key issues such as increased compensation, streaming residuals, and AI, leading to rhetoric that grew increasingly polarized during the spring and summer.
“There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said of the writers and actors just one day after the studios’ talks with SAG-AFTRA broke down. “They are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.” SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher had a different view, saying on the first day of the strike, “We are being victimized by a very greedy entity.” She argued that the studios and streamers represented by the AMPTP pled poverty in negotiations while “giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history, at this very moment.”
The actors strike elevated Drescher into a new type of public role, that of a labor leader. Though she got flack for flying to Italy for a Dolce & Gabbana promotional event just days before the SAG-AFTRA contract was set to expire, the actor previously best known for playing The Nanny approached her new position with such passion that even Saturday Night Live couldn’t pass up spoofing her in a recent sketch. Meanwhile, Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, and some of their fellow CEOs found themselves cast in the villain role over the summer, as picketers brandished signs admonishing the studio bosses.
The dual strikes wreaked devastation across the entertainment industry—shutting down productions, bumping awards shows, forcing studios to postpone blockbusters rather than releasing projects without actors to promote them, and putting thousands of crew members out of work. It was the first time both unions had been on strike since 1960, and the shock waves rippled out beyond Hollywood. The production shutdown has cost the California economy an estimated $5 billion.