The union representing screenwriters reached a tentative agreement with Hollywood studios to end a historic strike after nearly five months, raising hopes that a crippling shutdown of movie and television filming could be near an end.
Actors remain on strike, but the deal with writers might help them find a resolution soon as well.
The Writers Guild of America announced the deal Sunday in a joint statement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the group that represents studios, streaming services and production companies in negotiations. The agreement must be approved by the guild’s board and members before the strike officially ends. That could happen this week.
The pact “was made possible by the enduring solidarity of WGA members and extraordinary support of our union siblings who joined us on the picket lines for over 146 days,” the guild said in an email to members.
In a longer message from the guild shared by members on social media, the writers were told the strike is not over and no one was to return to work until hearing otherwise, but picketing was to be suspended immediately.
The three-year contract agreement emerged after five marathon days of renewed talks by WGA and AMPTP negotiators, who were joined at times by studio executives. The terms were not immediately announced. The deal to end the last writers strike, in 2008, was approved by more than 90% of union members.
Media and entertainment companies got a small boost from the news. Shares in Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount, Disney and Netflix all rose about 2% or less on Monday.
The agreement came just five days before the strike would have become the longest in the guild’s history and the longest Hollywood strike more than 70 years.
As a result of the deal, nightly network shows including NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” could return to the air within days.
But as writers prepare to potentially crack open their laptops again, it’s far from business as usual in Hollywood, as talks have not yet resumed between studios and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
“While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP’s tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary terms for our members,” the actors union said in a statement.
The statement said the guild continues to urge executives “to return to the table and make the fair deal that our members deserve and demand.”
Talks aimed at ending the writers strike resumed Wednesday for the first time in a month. Chief executives including Bob Iger of Disney, Ted Sarandos of Netflix, David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discovery and Donna Langley of NBCUniversal reportedly took part in the negotiations directly.
The deal was reached without the intervention of federal mediators or other government officials, which had been necessary in previous strikes.
President Joe Biden said the agreement was “testament to the power of collective bargaining.”
“There simply is no substitute for employers and employees coming together to negotiate in good faith toward an agreement that makes a business stronger and secures the pay, benefits and dignity that workers deserve,” Biden said Monday in a statement.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass congratulated the two sides on the deal and said she is hopeful the same can happen soon with actors.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom did the same, saying writers “went on strike over existential threats to their careers and livelihoods — expressing real concerns over the stress and anxiety workers are feeling.”
About 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America walked off the job May 2 over issues of pay, the size of writing staffs on shows and the use of artificial intelligence in the creation of scripts. Actors, who joined the writers on strike in July, have their own issues but there have been no discussions about resuming negotiations with their union yet.
The writers strike immediately sent late-night talk shows and “Saturday Night Live” on hiatus. Dozens of scripted shows and other productions have been in limbo, including forthcoming seasons of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” HBO’s “The Last of Us,” and ABC’s “Abbot Elementary,” and films including “Deadpool 3” and “Superman: Legacy.” The Emmy Awards were also pushed from September to January.
More recently, writers had been targeting talk shows that were working around strike rules to return to air, including “ The Drew Barrymore Show,” “ Real Time With Bill Maher ” and “The Talk.” All reversed course in the face of picketing and pressure, and are likely to quickly return now.
The combined strikes made for a pivotal moment in Hollywood as creative labor faced off against executives in a business transformed by technology, from the seismic shift to streaming in recent years to the potentially paradigm-shifting emergence of AI in the years to come.
Screenwriters have traditionally gone on strike more than any other segment of the industry, but they enjoyed a relatively long stretch of labor peace until last spring, when negotiations for a new contract fell apart. The walkout was their first since 2007 and their longest since 1988.
On July 14, more than two months into the strike, the writers got a dose of solidarity and star power — along with a lot of new picketing partners — when they were joined by 65,000 striking film and television actors.
It was the first time the two groups had been on strike together since 1960. In that walkout, the writers strike started first and ended second. This time, studios opted to deal with the writers first.
The AMPTP first reached out to suggest renewing negotiations in August. The meetings were short, infrequent and not productive, and talks went silent for another month.