Writer's strike winners and losers -- With the strike resolved, find out why we've declared Ben Stiller, reality shows, and the Fox network winners
It involved double-secret negotiations, a couple of power brokers, and a few thousand extras. No, not the next James Bond film. The aforementioned intrigue was all part of resolving the three-month-long writers’ strike in Hollywood. Now that it’s over, everyone should be rejoicing, right? Well, maybe not everyone. A few folks — such as those spandex-clad fighters over at NBC — made out during the strike just fine. Below, a look at who benefited and who got hurt (not necessarily by a giant Q-tip) in Hollywood’s long-running labor debacle.
For the first time, writers who create content for the Web and cell phones will get paid for their services. ”The studios could have easily said no thanks,” says Jonathan Handel, a former WGA attorney. ”This is a complete 180.” The writers can also expect $700 to $1,400 whenever their shows stream online — though it’s only payable after a two- or three-week ”promotional window,” when most viewing occurs (in the third year of the contract, they’ll get 2 percent of the advertising gross after the promo period ends). This, ultimately, is what the writers went to war over in the first place.
Ben Stiller and Christian Bale
While the strike caused some studios to postpone or possibly forfeit potential tentpole films (see Losers), Fox was able to keep the Night at the Museum sequel (May 22, 2009) on track for that valuable Memorial Day weekend. Warner Bros.’ Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins (starring Bale as future fighter John Connor) remains on schedule for summer 2009 as well. Meanwhile, folks at Universal have to be smiling after luring Michael Mann away from Sony’s troubled Edwin A. Salt to direct Johnny Depp (and, yes, Bale) in Public Enemies, a glamorous 1930s crime drama set to begin production on March 10.
Even when you factor out the Super Bowl, Fox still managed to gain viewers during the labor dispute (its audience is up 4 percent compared with the same three-month stretch last year). Of course, having American Idol (29 million viewers) and new lie-detector game show The Moment of Truth (19.1 million) doesn’t hurt. If the strike proved anything, it’s that America hasn’t tired of…
The success of NBC’s American Gladiators (10 million), coupled with well-viewed (if not well-re viewed) runs of that network’s The Celebrity Apprentice (9.1 million) and The Biggest Loser (9.1 million), ABC’s Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann (10.6 million), and Fox’s Truth, proved reality shows are here to stay. Sorry.
Chuck and Pushing Daisies
Because the labor dispute extended well into TV’s development season, networks are creating fewer pilots for September ’08, which will give quirky critical darlings like NBC’s Chuck and ABC’s Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money the opportunity to relaunch in the fall. In any other year, moderately rated freshman shows like these would most likely be fighting for their lives right about now — if they were even still on the air. Score one for the computer nerd and the pie maker.
The Los Angeles economy
The movie studios and networks had other sources of revenue to help weather a three-month-long labor dispute, but ordinary crew members like makeup artists, grips, and set decorators weren’t so lucky. Los Angeles County chief economist Jack Kyser estimates that at least 11,000 people were put out of work after November — to say nothing of the peripheral businesses like restaurants that took it in the gut when folks hit the picket lines. Of course, the writers were perhaps the hardest hit: ”Anyone who was out on strike lost because the income that they would have earned, they’ll never be able to make up,” says Kyser.
Wonder Woman and Dr. Robert Langdon
Script problems forced Warner Bros. to postpone production on the much-anticipated Justice League of America until mid-July, which puts its summer 2009 release in possible jeopardy. And the studio lost Shantaram director Mira Nair to Amelia and star Depp to Public Enemies. The strike also proved to be a puzzle that not even Dr. Robert Langdon could solve, as trouble with Akiva Goldsman’s pass on the Angels & Demons screenplay prompted Universal to push back the Da Vinci Code prequel from this Christmas to May 2009 — a full three years after the first film hit theaters.
The other four networks
With the exception of Fox, everybody took a nosedive once the picket lines went up. The already vulnerable CW lost the largest number of viewers from last year (down 22 percent), followed by CBS (19 percent), NBC (9 percent), and ABC (4 percent). ”The networks took a hit. Will it have a long-lasting impact? Probably,” says Bill Carroll, vice president of programming for the ad rep Katz Television Group. ”Anytime you change viewing patterns, it has an impact.”
One of the ways studios cut costs during the strike? By banishing those expensive ”development deals.” Any writer-producer who wasn’t actively developing or working on an existing series before the walkout was dumped in early January. Among those who received pink slips from TV studios was K-Ville creator Jonathan Lisco, as well as Hugh Jackman, whose Seed Prods. had a first-look deal at CBS Paramount. Payback for Viva Laughlin, perhaps?
The daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore lost her chance to join the illustrious ranks of Calista Carradine, Candace Savalas, and Lisabeth Shatner by serving as Miss Golden Globe when the ceremony was canceled. Hmmm, on second thought, maybe she belongs more in the Winners category.