Hollywood actors ready to strike join writers in pickets

LOS ANGELES, July 13 (Reuters) – Hollywood actors went on strike on Thursday after talks with studios broke down, joining film and TV writers who have been on pickets since May and exacerbating the disruption of dozens of shows and movies.

Hollywood studios now face their first double shutdown in 63 years, forcing them to shut down many productions in the US and abroad. The twin strikes will add to the economic damage from the writers’ strike, dealing another blow to an industry grappling with changes to its business.

Both SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood’s largest union representing 160,000 film and television actors, and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) are calling for increases in basic and residual pay in the streaming TV era, as well as assurances that their work will not be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI ).

The actors’ union announced at a press conference on Thursday that the strike would begin at midnight.

Fran Drescher, former star of “The Nanny” TV show and president of SAG-AFTRA, called the studios’ responses to the actors’ concerns “offensive and disrespectful.”

“The companies have refused to engage in any meaningful way on some topics and have completely stymied us on others,” he said in a statement after the deadline for the actors to agree to a new contract expired at midnight on Wednesday. “Until they negotiate in good faith, we can’t begin to reach an agreement.”

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the trade association that negotiates on behalf of Netflix Inc (NFLX.O), Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) and other production companies, said it was “deeply disappointed that SAG-AFTRA has decided to abandon the negotiations”.

The group said it offered “historic salaries and residual raises” and “a game-changing AI proposition that protects the digital likenesses of actors.” Actors fear that their digital images will be used without their permission or adequate compensation.

“Rather than continuing to negotiate, SAG-AFTRA has set us on a path that will deepen the financial hardship for thousands of people who depend on the industry for their livelihoods,” the AMPTP said.


The strike of some 11,500 writers sent late-night television talk shows to endless reruns, halted most production for the fall television season, and disrupted work on big-budget films.

Reuters graphics

A strike by SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors from minor players to Hollywood’s biggest movie stars, will effectively shut down the studios’ remaining US productions of film and television scripts.

It will also hamper many overseas shoots involving SAG-AFTRA talent, such as the sequel to Paramount Pictures’ Gladiator, which director Ridley Scott shot in Morocco and Malta.

Some production work not involving SAG-AFTRA artists may proceed, such as location scouting or some types of post-production editing. But the loss of actors, who will not do any promotional work for film and TV productions during the strike, will put more pressure on media companies to find a solution.

Hollywood hasn’t faced simultaneous strikes since 1960, when members of the WGA and Screen Actors Guild both quit their jobs in a fight over leftovers from films sold to television networks.

Bob Iger, whose contract as Disney CEO was extended this week through the end of 2026, told CNBC on Thursday that the writers’ and actors’ unions had unrealistic expectations.

“It’s very disturbing to me,” Iger said, noting the continued recovery of the entertainment industry from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is the worst time in the world to add to this disruption.”

The actors say the rise of the streaming era has made it harder to make a living, especially for the many thousands of SAG-AFTRA members who aren’t household names.

“You have to earn $26,000 a year to qualify for your health insurance, and there are a lot of people who exceed that threshold through their outstanding payments,” actor Matt Damon said at a promotional event held for the film ‘Oppenheimer’ on Wednesday . “There is money that is being made and it needs to be allocated in order to take care of people who are on the margins.”

Many streaming services, however, have yet to turn a profit after companies spend billions of dollars on programming to try to attract customers.

Disney, Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal (CMCSA.O), and Paramount Global (PARA.O) all lost hundreds of millions of dollars from streaming in the most recent quarter. At the same time, the rise of online video has eroded TV advertising revenue as traditional TV audiences shrink.

WGA’s work disruption has spread throughout California and beyond, affecting restaurateurs, prop purveyors, and others who rely on Hollywood production for business. The economic damage should extend if the plaintiffs also strike.

The television networks have already announced autumn schedules full of reality shows, which are not affected by the current union tensions. Independent productions not covered by union contracts can also continue.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Dawn Chmielewski; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Mark Porter and Bill Berkrot

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