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A year of strikes and turbulence in Hollywood alleviated by the ‘Barbie’ phenomenon

A year of strikes and turbulence in Hollywood alleviated by the ‘Barbie’ phenomenon

The year 2023 will be remembered in hollywood like the one in which, six decades later, the writers’ and actors’ unions staged a strike joint that shook the foundations of the industry, causing million-dollar losses that were only alleviated by the premiere of ‘Barbie’.

The course started with box office turnover still very far from the pre-pandemic era, a slowdown in the streaming platform market and inflation close to 5%.

On May 2, turbulence began in Hollywood with the refusal of the US Screenwriters Union (WGA) to extend a new collective agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) if their working conditions did not improve. .

Their demands were mainly based on an increase in the minimum wage; better coverage in healthcare and pension plans; the establishment of a specific regulation that would protect them against creations by artificial intelligence (AI) and an increase in the so-called residual rights, extra payments that professionals receive when a title is re-released in another market or platforms.

A situation practically identical to that of the Hollywood Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) which, after intense negotiation with the major studios and streaming services, decided to join the picket lines on July 14 in what would be the first strike. joint industry since 1960, when Ronald Reagan presided over the interpreters union.

Company profits rebounded after the pandemic and salary increases did not arrive. “Actors couldn’t maintain their careers and the threat of AI made the situation even more precarious,” Kevin Klowden, head of global strategy at the Milken Institute in California, explains to EFE.

Fran Drescher, from ‘nanny’ to combative union leader

The president of SAG-AFTRA, Fran Drescher, emerged as a fierce defender of actors’ rights, an actress without much union experience and with a career deeply marked by her role in the series. ‘The Nanny’ (‘The Nanny’, 1993), who stated in an interview with EFE that he took it so seriously that he feared “not survive.”

His incendiary language against the moguls of the entertainment industry muddied negotiations with constant back-and-forth that did not officially remove Hollywood from the blockade until last week.

Television was forced to replace programs, prestigious awards such as the Emmys had to be postponed until 2024 and long-awaited productions, such as the last season of the series ‘Stranger Things’ or new versions of ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘Gladiator’, They put on the brakes.

This situation brought with it losses of at least US$6.5 billion for the Californian economy and the layoffs of 45,000 workers – including transportation, logistics, clothing and makeup professionals – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. US

However, the need to save the momentous Christmas season on the US billboard led to an understanding, first between AMPTP and WGA, which abandoned the strike on September 27 with significant increases in their benefits.

A “paradigm shift” in the industry

Almost a month and a half later, the actors reached an agreement with the studios that was ratified last Tuesday and described as a “historic change of era.”

The new document includes a salary increase of up to 14.5% in the next three years and a clause “reasonably specific” which will allow the actors to decide whether they consent – under an increase in their cache – that their scenes serve to train an AI that can replicate them digitally.

In addition, an additional payment was accepted for successful productions on the platforms, that is, those that add, during the first three months in their country of origin, a total of views equivalent to 20% of the national subscribers of the service. ‘streaming’ in question.

“Paradigm changes, as occurred when films went from cinema to re-release on television, always mean that the industry recycles itself”Robert Thompson, professor at the University of Syracuse (USA) and founder of the Bleier Center for Television, tells EFE.

Other experts such as Mark Young, professor at the Marshall School of Business (University of Southern California), emphasize to EFE that, “in a world in which AI can write a script, the actors are self-generated and sets created by them are used. computer”, the “creativity and charisma” of the artists will prevail.

‘Barbie’, the unexpected emergence of the film of the year

The creativity and charisma of Greta Gerwig, who despite her youth has already obtained great recognition with films such as ‘Lady Bird’ (2017), did not surprise anyone in 2023, but few really expected that she would manage to make her version of ‘Barbie’ a phenomenon among the ten highest grossing films in history.

With the help of icons such as Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, the filmmaker managed to make her film about the Mattel doll in real life a work that aroused an enormous consensus around its originality.

Approximately US$ 1,442 million at the global box office guarantee the most successful film of the year, whose expectation was such that its actors were even allowed to participate in promotional events, despite being prohibited by the strike.

‘Barbie’ It is considered one of the favorites for this awards season but, beyond the awards, it will always be able to boast of being the film that mainly kept the Hollywood industry alive the year in which the joint strike made it deeply rethink the business model. .

Source: Gestion

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