Hollywood’s actors union reached a tentative deal with studios Wednesday to end its strike, bringing a close to months of labor strife that ground the entertainment industry to a historic halt.
The three-year contract agreement must be approved by votes from the union’s board and its members in the coming days, but the leadership declared that the strike will end at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.
At nearly four months, it was by far the longest strike ever for film and television actors.
More than 60,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Performers went on strike July 14, joining screenwriters who had walked off the job more than two months earlier. It was the first time the two unions had been on strike together since 1960. Studios chose to negotiate with the writers first, striking a deal that their leadership marked as a major win and bringing their strike to an end on Sept. 26.
The terms of the agreement were not immediately released. SAG-AFTRA said details would be made public after a meeting on Friday where board members review the contract. Issues on the table included both short-term compensation and future royalty payments for film and TV performances, along with control over actors’ images and likenesses regenerated with artificial intelligence.
Executives from top entertainment companies including Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. Discovery and Universal had a direct hand in negotiations, which like all Hollywood union talks were led by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
The end of the strike announcement came hours after Disney CEO Robert Iger and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav reported their latest earning statements. Both executives said they hoped the strike would be resolved soon.
Disney’s shares rose based on its report, which said its net income jumped 63% to $264 million in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, up from $162 million a year earlier. Zaslav said on an earnings call that the studios’ last offer “ met virtually all of the union’s goals and includes the highest wage increase in 40 years.”
Warner Bros. Discovery reported losses and saw its shares fall 19% Wednesday.
Although the writers strike had immediate, visible effects for viewers, including the months-long suspension of late-night talk shows and Saturday Night Live, the impact of the actors’ absence was not as immediately apparent. But its ripple effects — delayed release dates and waits for new show seasons — could be felt for months or even years.
Actors should quickly return to movie sets where productions were paused, including Deadpool 3, Gladiator 2 and Wicked. Other movies and shows will restart shooting once returning writers finish scripts.
And beyond scripted productions, the end of the strike allows actors to return to red carpets, talk shows and podcasts, as Hollywood’s awards season approaches.
“The SAG strike is over!! I can finally say it: watch my documentary Saturday night at 8 on HBO/MAX!” actor-director Albert Brooks said on social media moments after the strike ended. “Couldn’t say a word until now!!”
The only major awards show directly effected by the strike was the Emmys, which was moved from September to January. Now, the usual fall Oscar campaigns will mobilize.
But any feeling of industry normalcy could prove temporary. The circumstances that brought on the strikes — the shift from traditional theatrical and broadcast media to streaming, and emerging tech like AI — have not been slowed. And the gains made by the strikes may embolden other Hollywood unions, or these same guilds in negotiations that will come up again in just a few years.
Union leaders treated the strike like a watershed moment from the start, coming as it did amid wider labor fights in other industries.
“I think it’s a conversation now about the culture of big business, and how it treats everybody up and down the ladder in the name of profit,” SAG-AFTRA President and “The Nanny” star Fran Drescher told The Associated Press in an August interview.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the executive director and chief negotiator who led the team that struck the deal for the guild, told the AP in August that he was “honored to be part of making sure that our members get a fair contract that’s going to protect them going into the future and make sure that the 14-year-olds I talked to on the Disney picket line still have the ability to be an actor when they turn 18.”
The agreement also means a return to sets for thousands of film crew members who have left with nothing to work on during the strikes. SAG-AFTRA sought to offset their hardship by allowing sometimes controversial interim agreements for some smaller productions to proceed, and by making their strike relief fund available to all workers in the industry.