Strike Fears Dissolve With New Actors' Contract

Hollywood is breathing a collective sigh of relief as the long-threatened actors' strike looks to have been averted

Late Tuesday, the two unions, representing 135,000 actors, reached a tentative agreement with major film and TV studios on a new three-year contract. Union leaders hailed the settlement as achieving their principal objective of securing more money for "working-class" actors — the unsung performers who make up the bulk of their membership and earn less than $70,000 a year when employed.

Keeping the Town Working Meanwhile, industry officials said they were relieved that studios could move ahead with productions they put on hold while awaiting the outcome of the talks. The settlement of what amounts to the single most important contract in Hollywood ends lingering anxiety over the possibility of labor strife in the film and TV industry this year. Fears that Hollywood was headed for crippling back-to-back strikes by screenwriters and actors all but evaporated in May when the Writers Guild of America settled its contract with studios. But the studios have remained hesitant to launch new productions until the actors' deal was in place. Nick Counter, president and chief negotiator for the industry's Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said he was eager to get the word out of a deal "that keeps the town working." Marathon Talks Since May The deal, clinched nearly three days after the actors' old contract expired, follows more than a week of marathon bargaining sessions capping off-again, on-again negotiations that began May 15. "I was right, there was a deal to be made, and for that I am entirely grateful," a jubilant Screen Actors Guild President William Daniels told reporters at a news conference. He credited both sides for setting the tone of the talks.

AFTRA negotiating team co-chairman John Connolly acknowledged to Reuters that the commercial actors' strike, which ended in October, had a "daunting effect" on union members as they faced talks with the film and TV studios.

The deal, which has been unanimously endorsed by the negotiating teams for SAG and AFTRA, must still be approved by the governing boards of the two unions and ratified by the rank-and-file, a process expected to take a little over a month.

SAG officials say that the new deal does not address "runaway production," the growing trend of studios to save money by shooting movies and TV shows in Canada and other foreign countries, thereby taking jobs away from domestic talent.

Reuters contributed to this story.