First, the bad news: Hollywood may be headed for another shutdown. The good news? It may not last long. The entertainment industry is still reeling from a 100-day writers’ strike that ended in February. TV ratings are down for several returning shows — including Grey’s Anatomy and CSI — and movie production has not rebounded. The town is in a financial and emotional funk, and now it’s staring into the maw of a potential actors’ strike. A June 30 walkout by the 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the smaller American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) would bring Hollywood to a standstill. In addition to halting film and television production, actors might be prohibited from promoting their projects. That could mean no late-night talk-show appearances, press junkets, or red-carpet premieres — all worth tens of millions in free publicity — near the peak of the summer movie season.
The sticking points are familiar to anybody who followed the painful writers’ walkout, and SAG is currently locked in a stalemate with producers over whether studios and networks can use clips online without getting permission from the actors involved. Negotiations are set to resume on or before May 28, but some producers fear that a strike is inevitable — especially since an estimated 80 percent of SAG members are unemployed and thus have nothing to lose by walking out. The more optimistic view? No one’s more desperate to work than an unemployed actor — except maybe a studio head with a $200 million movie to open and no stars to help him shill it.