Healing in Hollywood

From CNN’s Reliable Sources with Oliver Darcy:

A frozen Hollywood is starting to thaw.

After several days of marathon negotiating sessions, on day 146 of the strike, the major studios and the writers finally reached a tentative agreement to put the historic work stoppage to an end. The deal, which the Writers Guild of America will now need to sell to its members, paves a road toward getting the Hollywood engine roaring once again.

The Sunday night treaty came at the eleventh hour, leaving the studios with just enough time to salvage the winter half of the television season. While the WGA’s 11,000-strong membership base will still need to vote to ratify the agreement, it’s expected that the union’s board will move to allow the writers to return to work before that process officially concludes. That decision could allow the scribes to get the ink flowing in their pens in just days, allowing jokes to be once again written for late-night and scripts to be penned for film and television.

But the pact with the writers does not solve the mammoth problems that loom over Hollywood. Scripts are no good if there are no actors to bring them to life on the screen. The Hollywood machine requires multiple gears turning in harmony — and the writers represent only one mechanism of a complex operation. As long as the standoff between SAG-AFTRA and the studios endures, Hollywood will remain largely frozen.

That means that the studio chiefs — most notably Disney’s Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, and NBCU’s Donna Langley, all of whom directly negotiated with the writers in the final days, efforts seen as critical in achieving a deal — need to quickly find an avenue to resolve some of the thorny issues that led to the actors walking off the stage in mid-July. The studios believe that the resolution of the WGA strike certainly gives them significant momentum, people familiar with their thinking tell me.

It’s no question that the writers getting back to work will add new pressure to reignite talks with their on-screen allies. After all, until now, many of the striking actors would have been without work, regardless of whether they were on the picket line. That is because without the writers producing fresh content, there were simply no projects for the actors to work on.

But while the last 24 hours have certainly bestowed some favorable winds upon the studios, sailing to a deal with the actors will not occur effortlessly. The actors harbor deep concerns on a number of hefty issues. Some of them overlap with those of the writers, such as the use of artificial intelligence, which I’m told was one of the final sticking points the studios had to untangle with the writers. So in that regard, it’s possible some of the framework laid down in the WGA deal could prove useful in the SAG-AFTRA negotiations.

That’s not to say that the studios have a complete blueprint for how to resolve the second strike. The actors have their own unique concerns that the studio bosses will need to grapple with. And they’ll need to do so quickly to get television production back up and running. At the moment, however, relations between the studios and actors remain frozen in place.

“Hollywood’s actors are back in the spotlight,” John Koblin, Nicole Sperling, and Brooks Barnes write. (NYT)

“It’s fitting that these Writers Guild negotiations stretched nearly into Yom Kippur, because both sides had a lot to atone for,” Matthew Belloni and Jonathan Handel write as they explain what a post-deal Hollywood might look like. (Puck)

“It may be weeks or even months before production activity returns to anywhere close to the levels that existed before the work stoppage began on May 2,” Wendy Lee reports. (LAT)

Late night is certain to come back alive first. Michael Schneider reports that “some late night producers are already emailing staff members about coming back to work ASAP.” (Variety)

And unscripted shows like “The Drew Barrymore Show” and “Dancing With the Stars” will soon grace television screens. (Vulture)

President Joe Biden weighed in, praising the deal as a “testament to the power of collective bargaining.” (The Wrap)

The Street also weighed in, in its own style: “Media and entertainment companies got a small boost from the news,” Andrew Dalton notes. “Shares in Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount, Disney, and Netflix all rose about 2% or less on Monday.” (AP)

Dan Gallagher explains why the deal is a “mixed blessing” for studios: “The strikes have been a clear negative for the studios, crippling the fall TV season and delaying the release of major theatrical movies. But the production stoppages have been a clear positive for their cash-flow statements, at a time when all but Netflix are burning cash on their streaming operations.” (WSJ)

The big picture from Brian Lowry: Solving the strikes “won’t resolve the underlying challenges facing the entertainment industry that prompted the guilds to take this action, including wrenching change brought about by streaming.” (CNN)

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