The Strikes Are Over

The End of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes

After many, many, many months, the Writers' and Actors' strikes are finally over and Hollywood can, finally, begin to get back to work. Bear in mind that Hollywood has been effectively shut down since May 2, 2023 when the writers (WGA) went on strike and only a few productions could continue until they ran out of scripts. This was then compounded when the actors when on strike on July 14, 2023, and Hollywood was suddenly gripped tightly by a complete work stoppage. Nothing could move forward, and nothing completed could be advertised by the stars that had worked on them.

This last bit might seem weird to people outside of Hollywood, but yes, actors cannot advertise their productions while they're on strike. This, in large part, because going around, doing the press, and being "the stars" of the film is as much a part of their job as actually making the movie. Actors are expected to go around, do the talk shows and so forth, to help spread the word about their movies. When they're on strike they aren't allowed to do this and it puts pressure on the studios to move since their films suddenly aren't getting the kind of buzz and presence that's expected.

It's estimated that just about every film released during the full strikes was affected in some way. It's thought that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem could have made at least $50 Mil more over it's (still solid) $180.5 haul had its stars been able to go out and do the rounds. Would Transformers: Rise of the Beasts still have been a flop if the leads could have been on talk shows, getting people interested? Maybe, as franchise fatigue does feel very real at this point. But a few more eyeballs on the film could have made the $439 Mil haul, the only effectively let the film break even by Hollywood math, actually eke out a small, successful profit.

Of course, the big loser everyone is pointing at right now is The Marvels, the Captain Marvel / WandaVision / Ms. Marvel team-up film that opened to Marvel's lowest Box Office return ever (just $114.7 Mil internationally, which puts it on track to earn a likely $400 Mil, breaking even if it's lucky). Was the film brought down my Marvel fatigue, or too many crossovers into one movie, or a turn against the Captain Marvel character? Maybe all of the above. But not being able to have its three stars out there, hyping it for all to see, certainly hurt significantly.

Why did the strikes take five months for the actors and six months for the writers to resolve? Because Hollywood suits are greedy. There's really no other way to put it. Hollywood is a business, yes, and the studios are all in it for making money despite film, inherently, being an artistic endeavor. But as the power of the blockbuster rose, and it seemed like audiences would turn up for anything with a brand name, it's pretty clear that the Hollywood suits figured they didn't need the writers and actors as much as those creatives needed the studios. So they decided to try and starve them out, playing the long game.

But it backfired. For one, we're in an era of franchise fatigue. Marvel is feeling the pinch right now, but DC felt it before them (with the failures of Black Adam, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, The Flash, and Blue Beetle. You can find other examples as well (such as that Transformers film), but the short of it is that audiences are tired of the same old stories from the same old companies being regurgitated over and over again.

That's not to say that brand names don't sell still. The Super Mario Bros. Movie brought in an unexpected $1.362 Bil, launch Nintendo's dreams of movies based on their games. Barbie then pushed past that to earn a stellar $1.442 Bil. Hell, the Five Nights at Freddy's film has already brought in $260.5 Mil on a (tiny for Hollywood standards) $20 Mil budget, largely on name recognition alone.

Arguably while these films, and others that also succeeded recently, have managed to rise above is because of the work of the creatives on the films. I didn't personally care for the Super Mario film, finding it to be a bog-standard Illuminations movie. But there's no question there was love put into it, with all it's references and shout outs to Super Mario SeriesHe's the world's most famous plumber and the biggest face in Nintendo's stable, a character so ubiquitous you already knew we were talking about Mario even before we said his name. continuity. There's no way Barbie is as successful as it was without Gretta Gerwig's perspective creating a delightfully feminist film. And the creative team behind Mutant Madness made and absolutely labor of love on every level while treating their creatives with respect. And it showed at the Box Office.

The suits, though, don't care about the creatives and had to watch their whole industry grind to a halt because of it. They wanted to be able to use AI to do everything that the writers and actors were doing. Worse, they wanted to feed all the works of the creatives into the AI, never pay the creatives, and just start cranking out films. Every actor would have been scanned, and their likeness used in perpetuity without pay to the actors has the suits gotten their way. But they didn't because, end of the day, the actors and writers stood their ground and refused to sign off on that horrible plan.

So what did the creatives get? Well, writers have basically done away with mini-rooms, the torturous way of doing writers' rooms that failed to let shows actually develop and breathe properly. They also get more residuals for streaming, and overall pay was increased. The same goes for the actors, and both sides got AI protections and agreements to get consent, and pay, before any work or likeness is used by AI. They might not have gotten everything they wanted (both groups wanted AI removed completely and the actors wanted even strong residuals than they got) but there's no arguing they came out the winners in the strikes this time.

As for the studios... well, they basically shot themselves in the feet. They lost a lot of money, had to delay a bunch of projects (which will lose them even more money over time) and all so they could basically agree to what the writers and actors wanted at the very beginning. Plus, they drummed up a lot of bad press and have revealed themselves to be suits that would negotiate in good faith. Hard to see the writers or actors trusting the studios to do the right thing the next time contracts are up in a few years. Effectively the studios lost millions and millions of dollars to get the deal they were offered at the start, and they could have saved themselves a lot of money and respect had they just agreed to it. But greed is kind, as proven here.

We're glad the actors and writers got (more or less) what they wanted. Good for them in fighting the good fight. And now we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming. Thank gods.