A slate of big-budget summer movies from Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny to a live-action Barbie film will be released in the coming weeks as Hollywood gears up for blockbuster season. But behind the scenes, as the Hollywood writers strike enters its third month, the impact of the current conflict between screenwriters and major film studios and streamers is coming into focus. Most productions have ground to a halt as future films and TV series are being delayed, if not canceled.
One of the most high-profile productions canceled by the strike is a new TV adaptation of Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 sci-fi film Metropolis. Apple TV+ reportedly scrapped acclaimed showrunner Sam Esmail’s years-in-the-making series just as it was supposed to begin filming this summer in Australia. Max’s new Batman spin-off series, The Penguin, starring Colin Farrell, has also been halted, even through a teaser for the show had been released.
With many writers on the picket lines no longer participating in any scripting or revisions, many existing series are no longer filming. Shooting for the next season of the Yellowstone prequel 1923 on Paramount+, starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, has been suspended until the writers strike ends. Other popular shows that are not currently filming include future seasons of Severance, Abbott Elementary, Euphoria, The Last of Us, Cobra Kai and the final season of Netflix’s Stranger Things.
Duffers here. Writing does not stop when filming begins. While we’re excited to start production with our amazing cast and crew, it is not possible during this strike. We hope a fair deal is reached soon so we can all get back to work. Until then — over and out. #wgastrong
— stranger writers (@strangerwriters) May 6, 2023
But the delays aren’t all necessarily due to the strike. In recent months, studios and streamers have been consolidating and cutting costs through layoffs and cancelations. Some insiders speculate the studios may use the strike as an excuse to enact “force majeure,” contract clauses allowing them to cancel deals with creators and showrunners.
It remains unclear how long the Writers Guild of America strike against studios and streamers in the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will continue, but many in Hollywood estimate it won’t be resolved before September.
This week, leaders of the other major Hollywood Union, SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors and other performers, tried to assure members that their contract negotiations with the AMPTP were going well. Almost immediately, more than 300 actors, including Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Quinta Brunson, sent a letter to their union saying they’re ready to strike for the best deal possible. Their current contract ends Friday and members have already overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike. (Many of NPR’s employees are members of SAG-AFTRA. Broadcast members are covered by a different contract than TV/Theatrical members though, so we won’t be on strike if one is called, and our own contract is not affected by these negotiations.)
The writers strike and the looming possibility of an actors strike is also significantly affecting film and TV marketing plans as well as the upcoming awards season.
Every year at Comic-Con International: San Diego — the big annual convention for comic book and sci fi fans — Hollywood studios host filled-to-capacity presentations of their upcoming movies. Last year in the convention’s renowned Hall H, Marvel brought out the stars of its film franchises Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler was onstage with his cast and offered the crowd the first sneak peak of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. But this year, Marvel and Disney are not making any big presentations. Neither are Netflix, Sony or Universal.
The Emmy Awards, which are scheduled set to air on FOX in September, could be delayed for months. Reports in The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter and other outlets suggest the organizers are discussing various contingency plans if the writers strike isn’t resolved this summer. Nominations are still scheduled to be announced Tuesday, July 12.
To manage the personal financial costs of a prolonged strike, many writers on the picket lines say they are relying on their fast-dwindling savings. Industry guilds, the Entertainment Community Fund, Women in Film and others have created emergency relief funds to support members.
Picketing is always better with a Martini, but I hope this doesn’t become a habit. It’s time for talks to resume and some real movement from the AMPTP. There are no winners right now. The whole industry is suffering and so are the fans of our content.
To Cobra Kai nation —… pic.twitter.com/H6wPlCjoz0
— Jon Hurwitz (@jonhurwitz) May 12, 2023
The shutdowns are also impacting many others working behind the scenes on film crews, including cinematographers, editors, grips, costumers, caterers and truck drivers. According to Film LA, which handles permits for film shoots on city streets and other locations, there were only two scripted TV series shooting in Los Angeles this week. Normally at this time of year, there would be dozens of TV projects in production.
The work stoppage affects many businesses that rely on the Hollywood economy, including restaurants, hotels and transportation. According to the Milken Institute, the 2008 writers strike, which lasted 100 days, cost the LA economy more than $2 billion in lost revenue.
For audiences accustomed to a steady — and at times overflowing — stream of new films and TV series, this dramatic slowdown in productions will have a palpable impact in the year to come.