The three-month-old strike being conducted by the Writers Guild of America is threatening to cause the cancellation of still yet another award show, this time the biggest show of them all, the Academy Awards presentations. Screenwriters are scheduled to resume talks with studio representatives Tuesday in hopes of reaching an agreement. The writers are looking for a greater percentage in the profits made from DVD and digital media sales.
The fear in Hollywood and throughout the entertainment industry is that the writers strike will force a cancellation of the Academy Awards that mirrors the boycotted and subsequently canceled Golden Globe Awards on January 13.
Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and who has been selected to host the 80th Annual Academy Awards presentations, is a member of the Writers Guild and a strike advocate. If talks break down, it is likely that he and the actors slated to attend “Hollywood’s biggest event” will indeed boycott the affair.
The writers strike has brought Hollywood to a virtual halt. Television networks have been forced into mid-season reruns and shortened seasons of shows that are presently airing unseen episodes. Movie studios have stopped production on several big-budget films, most notably “The Da Vinci Code” prequel “Angels and Demons.” Development deals have been terminated. And, as we have witnessed, the airing of awards ceremonies, where Hollywood shows off its glamor and talent, has been canceled. Even the People’s Choice Awards only offered a news conference announcement format on January 8. And there are rumblings from the music industry as the Grammys draw near as well.
But Hollywood depends on its writers. Many actors are part of the Writers Guild as well, hence the solidarity, or are very supportive of the strike. But there may be a breakthrough in negotiations. The Directors Guild of America reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers Friday, January 18, getting agreement on a fee for web-streamed material and a 100% increase in DVD sales for its members. The screenwriters look to use that agreement as a basis for one of their own.
And there are increasingly strong reasons for the producers to give in to the screenwriters’ demands. They are getting increased pressure from networks and markets to produce new material, because old material generates less advertising revenue. The producers are getting pressured by big corporations and advertisers for the same reason as the networks, to end the strike because people are less likely to view reruns, so their advertising dollar value is lessened (and continuous new product means continuous new advertising).
The producers are losing untold millions in revenue from stopped or slowed productions, timetables thrown horribly behind schedule. And then there is the added pressure from the fan base and the realization that they’re losing perhaps billions of potential dollars in free advertising because of the cancellation of all the awards ceremonies. And there does not seem to be a breaking point with the Writers Guild, and with the actors and directors behind them, there may not be. The bottom line is: the longer the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers refuses to negotiate or thwarts the Writers demands, the more money they lose.
With the Academy Awards drawing near, another threatened boycott in the offing, billions of dollars lost and the potential for even more to be lost, the writers strike may end before February 24. The Directors Guild agreement was a step toward reconciliation, but the producers have four weeks to stonewall the writers, but it does not look likely that the writers will acquiesce.