Hollywood actors reach deal with studios to end strike

Lisa Richwine, Dawn Chmielewski and Danielle Broadway |

The 118-day strike will officially end just after midnight, SAG-AFTRA says.
The 118-day strike will officially end just after midnight, SAG-AFTRA says.

Hollywood actors have reached a tentative agreement with major studios to resolve the second of two strikes that rocked the entertainment industry as workers demanded higher pay in the streaming TV era.

The 118-day work stoppage would end officially just after midnight, the SAG-AFTRA union said on Wednesday after its negotiating committee voted unanimously to support the deal.

Valued at more than $US1 billion ($A1.6 billion), the new three-year contract includes increases in minimum salaries and a new “streaming participation” bonus, the union said.

The deal also provides protections against unauthorized use of images generated by artificial intelligence (AI), an area that had emerged as a major concern from performers who feared being replaced by “digital doubles.”

“We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers,” the union said.

SAG-AFTRA President and The Nanny star Fran Drescher wrote on Instagram: “We did it!!!! The Billion+ $ Deal!”

The group’s national board will consider the agreement on Friday, and the union said it would release further details after that meeting.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiated on behalf of Walt Disney, Netflix and other media companies, said the agreement represented “a new paradigm” that gave the union its “biggest contract-on-contract gains” in its history.

The organisation said it “looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories”.

With the strike ending, Hollywood can ramp up to full production for the first time since May.

“I’m relieved,” actor Fanny Grande said in an interview.

“It’s been really difficult for most people in the industry, especially people of colour. As it is, we don’t have as many opportunities. We aren’t big celebrities that have money in the bank for months.”

Word of a potential agreement had spread across Hollywood earlier on Wednesday, raising hopes among actors who had spent weeks picketing outside studio offices in New York and Los Angeles instead of on sets.

“Preliminary chatter was that a vote was imminent,” said Rati Gupta, best known as Anu in the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory.

US actors Kate Flannery and Jack Black protest in LA
A-list stars such as Jack Black joined the picket line in Los Angeles.

“Hearts have been pounding for several hours today.”

Actors had similar concerns to film and television writers, who argued that compensation for working-class cast members had dwindled as streaming took hold, making it hard to earn a living wage in Los Angeles and New York.

TV series on streaming have not offered the same residual payments that actors enjoyed during the heyday of broadcast TV.

Performers also became alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, which they feared could lead to studios manipulating their likenesses without permission or replacing human actors with digital images.

George Clooney and other A-list stars voiced solidarity with lower-level actors and had urged union leadership to reach a resolution.

Many film and TV sets shut down when the Writers Guild of America called a strike in the spring.

While WGA members returned to writing scripts in late September, the ongoing SAG-AFTRA work stoppage left many productions dark.

SAG-AFTRA members outside Netflix headquarters in LA
Disruptions cost California more than $US6 billion in lost output, the Milken Institute estimates.

The disruptions cost California more than $US6 billion in lost output, according to a Milken Institute estimate.

With little work available, many prop masters, costume designers and other crew members struggled to make ends meet.

Hollywood’s work stoppages forced broadcast networks to fill their autumn line-ups with repeats, game shows and reality shows. 

It also led movie studios to delay big releases such as Dune: Part 2 because striking actors could not promote them.

Other major films, including the latest instalment of Mission: Impossible and Disney’s live-action remake of Snow White, were postponed until 2025.