Right now, at this very moment, Hollywood and Broadway are effectively in a comatose state. On the film & television angle, we have the strike of the Writer’s Guild of America, in an effort to gain profits from internet and DVD aspects of their work, which are being commercially sponsored on the internet and other venues. The writers, In NY, almost all of Broadway (save for the non-profits, huzzah, and a few select non-union theatres), has been effectively shut down as of today as the IATSE stage hands strike over contractual issues involving an increase in wage as well as certain criteria for the hot-spot issue of load-ins. The Local One has been working without a contract since July 31 of this year.
It’s mindblowing to think that right now most television shows have ceased (or will soon cease) production cutting into the fans’ seasonal expectations. It’s mindblowing to think that as the Thanksgiving-Christmas season approaches, most of the Broadway shows are dark, threatening the economic climate of not only the theatre community of NYC, but also of the surrounding businesses and restaurants (and tourist trade). Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers, estimates a direct and indiret loss of $17,000,000 per day as a result. Mid-town thrives on the theatre and for this holiday season, its going to be difficult should this strike be prolonged. Hopefully, it will be resolved in a manner similar to that of the musician’s strike of 2003. (Incidentally, I have a parallel experience here: both times I have had theatre tickets for the Wednesday after the commencement of the strike. Last time, things had cleared up in time, but we shall see what happens here…)
I am also incredibly concerned with the Writer’s Guild Strike as I find it an incredible issue of such importance that the outcome will impact the entertainment industry forever (and hopefully in good ways). The outcome of the WGA strike will influence the pending negotiations for SAG and DGA members, as their current contracts will be expiring in the spring. Not that I don’t sympathize with the current situation in NY, but it seems to me that those who write for television and film (not to mention those actors who don’t make the mega-millions) should reap more of the financial benefits of their work. For instance, The Office had 7,000,000 downloads off of itunes last year. That’s 7,000,000 times $1.99. That is what the show raked in. That’s almost $14,000,000 in revenue of which the actual team of the writers saw very little, if any at all – I think it was more the latter. (There was some rumor that Apple wanted to lower the episodes to $.99 which was why NBC pulled the show from itunes, since they wanted it at $4.99 an episode. Who knows the truth?) Residual benefits from these unwarranted corporate leanings would provide financial security especially for those writers who don’t rake in huge amounts of money like Aaron Sorkin or Tina Fey.
I hope situations are resolved so we’re not forced to sit through more reality spawn in our primetime TV (and that my shows return in triumph) and that I can go down and see August: Osage County this coming Wednesday. For the impact on film, we won’t really see that until some lousy rush-jobs are released next summer and fall.
Note: No Off-Broadway shows are impacted by the stagehand strike. There are also eight Broadway shows still running in NY that will not be affected: Cymbeline @ the Vivian Beaumont; Mauritius @ the Biltmore; The Ritz @ Studio 54; Pygmalion @ the American Airlines; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee @ Circle in the Square; Mary Poppins @ the New Amsterdam; Xanadu @ the Helen Hayes; and Young Frankenstein @ the Hilton. (Mel Brooks should be pleased, this strike will probably overshadow the critical evisceration his new musical received from opening night critics this week). Anyone with tickets for shows darkened by the strike are eligible for refunds and/or exchanges. Playbill has further information on how to get those refunds.
PS: For those fans of The Office, there is only one show left to air this coming Thursday. No new episodes until the strike has ended, kids.