What to know about the actors' strike

The labor action will affect film releases and awards show campaigns.

July 14, 2023, 11:48 AM

A union representing roughly 160,000 actors launched a strike overnight, bringing Hollywood to a standstill just two months after TV and movie writers walked off the job.

Prominent actors have voiced support for the strike.

Jaime Lee Curtis posted on Instagram an image of theater masks alongside a message: "It looks like it's time to take down the masks and pick up the signs."

Bob Odenkirk, of "Better Call Saul," tweeted, "Holy Cow."

Here's what to know about the actor's strike:

Why are actors going on strike?

The actors' strike centers on a dispute over compensation, especially in light of an industry-wide shift toward streaming that has changed the way performers receive residuals, or royalty payments.

Previously, a popular show meant sizable and consistent residual payments over the ensuing years. In streaming, however, those checks are far smaller, according to the actors' union Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director and chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, said at a press conference on Thursday that the streaming model has "undercut performers' residual income and high inflation has further reduced our members' ability to make ends meet."

In addition, actors have expressed significant concerns with the potential use of artificial intelligence as a substitute for use of a performer's authentic appearance. AI poses an "existential threat" to actors' livelihoods, Crabtree-Ireland said.

What are actors unable to do during the strike?

During the strike, members of the union cannot perform or take part in promotional tasks tied to the release of an already completed show or movie, according to a memo released by SAG-AFTRA.

The cast of the forthcoming film "Oppenheimer," including Emily Blunt and Matt Damon, walked off the red carpet in solidarity on Thursday at a U.K. premiere of the film. Emmy nominees, which were announced on Wednesday, will be unable to take part in the typical awards campaign.

How have the movie and television studios responded to the strike?

The strike elicited an immediate response from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the organization that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros Discovery.

PHOTO: SAG-AFTRA union President Fran Drescher, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, and union members hold up their fists at SAG-AFTRA offices in Los Angeles, July 13, 2023.
SAG-AFTRA union President Fran Drescher, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, and union members hold up their fists at SAG-AFTRA offices in Los Angeles, July 13, 2023.
Mike Blake/Reuters

In a statement on Thursday, the AMPTP faulted SAG-AFTRA for the industry's failure to avert a strike.

"A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring out TV shows and films to life," the AMPTP statement said.

"The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry," the statement added.

Moreover, AMPTP shared a list of terms included in its latest offer, such as a "groundbreaking AI proposal which protects performers' digital likenesses" and "substantial increases in pension and health contribution caps."

A spokesperson for AMPTP did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

What will happen to TV shows and movies?

The actors' strike, which compounds a work stoppage imposed by Hollywood writers in May, is expected to disrupt the production schedule. The delay may not affect the film releases for the remainder of 2023, since many of those movies have been completed, The New York Times reported.

The writers' strike has already taken late-night shows off the air and halted production of some major scripted TV shows and the actors' strike is expected to deepen the disarray.

FilmLA, which tracks production activity in Los Angeles, said last month that it identified an "overall decline in permit volume and on-location filming" set for the beginning of July.

Starting this fall, television lineups will be made up of a larger share of game shows and reality TV shows, the NYT said. Film releases, meanwhile, could undergo delays beginning with those planned for early 2024.