By Oliver Darcy and Ramishah Maruf, CNN
New York (CNN) — Hollywood actors have reached a tentative agreement with the major film and television studios to end their historic strike, the actors union announced Wednesday. The strike had shut down production across the industry for nearly four months and raised existential questions over the future of the entertainment business.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, had been negotiating with the union off and on throughout the year to reach a deal. Both the AMPTP and the actors praised the deal.
Union president Fran Drescher called the agreement “historic,” and the studios said the agreement “represents a new paradigm” for Hollywood, TV and the actors.
“We did it!!!! The Billion+ $ Deal! 3X the last contract! New ground was broke everywhere! Ty sag aftra members for hanging in and holding out for this historic deal!” Drescher posted on Instagram Wednesday.
The strike will officially end at midnight, the union said in a statement, concluding one of the longest and most disruptive strikes in Hollywood’s history that brought the industry to a standstill.
“The AMPTP is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement and looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories,” the studios said in a statement.
The White House applauded the agreement, saying in a statement it shows that “collective bargaining works.”
What’s in the deal
Terms of the deal, which still needs to be ratified by the union’s members before it can take effect, were not immediately disclosed. The union said it would not reveal them until the union’s board has reviewed the deal.
But in a statement to members, the union called the scope of the billion-dollar deal “extraordinary,” noting it includes significant increases in pay minimums, AI protections, and a streaming participation bonus, along with better benefits.
“We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers,” the union told members.
In an interview with CNN’s Kate Bolduan, Drescher said the contract “broke so much ground.” One of the major sticking points in negotiations was added protections for actors’ digital likenesses that could be used with AI, which Drescher said was added in “very late in the evening the night before we passed.”
“There was nothing in the contract that was consent, they didn’t have to ask for permission for anything,” Drescher said of the previous contract language. “Now, they have to ask for permission for everything.”
The union’s lowest-paid members also “got an unbelievable deal,” Drescher said.
The studios said in their statement that the actors will get “the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union, including the largest increase in minimum wages in the last forty years; a brand new residual for streaming programs; extensive consent and compensation protections in the use of artificial intelligence; and sizable contract increases on items across the board.”
Drescher thanked the AMPTP “for hearing us and meeting this moment.”
The actors represented by SAG-AFTRA are to return to work after they walked off the set on July 14, joining the writers’ guild in a historic double strike against the studios – the first time the writers and actors had simultaneously been on strike in more than 60 years.
While the writers’ strike was resolved in September, production has remained shuttered as the actors continued to strike and negotiate their contract. At the center of both standoffs is the rise of artificial intelligence, which threatens to upend the entire entertainment business.
The deal could face challenges getting ratified. An online petition signed by more than 5,000 members recently urged the union to take a hard line in negotiations toward a final deal, saying they would not agree to a deal that did not meet the demands laid out at the start of the strike.
“We have not come all this way to cave now,” said the letter. “We have not gone without work, without pay, and walked picket lines for months just to give up on everything we’ve been fighting for. We cannot and will not accept a contract that fails to address the vital and existential problems that we all need fixed.”
The tentative agreement with the AMPTP, once accepted by SAG leadership, will next go to the union’s board. The board has until Friday morning to approve it, Drescher said, at which point SAG’s roughly 160,000-member body will vote on whether to ratify it.
The relationship between SAG and the AMPTP should be “business as usual and zero problem” looking forward, Drescher said on CNN.
Long road to a resolution
A deal did not come easily – or quickly.
After several fits and starts, the striking actors had resumed negotiations on October 2 with producers after a long time away from the bargaining table. The announcement to restart talks came a day after leaders of the Writers Guild of America voted to authorize its members to return to work following their tentative agreement reached September 24 between union negotiators and Hollywood’s studios and streaming services.
But the actors’ contract negotiations didn’t last long, breaking down on Oct. 11 before returning later in the month.
By the end of October, it appeared the actors’ strike was approaching its final scene. SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP had made significant progress in negotiating sessions, arriving at tentative understandings on key components of a potential deal, CNN reported.
This past weekend, the studios said they delivered the union their “last, best & final offer.” But the union said in a message to its members that there are several “essential items” that the two sides have yet to reach agreement on, such as the use of AI.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass on Wednesday said she welcomed the resolution to the strike.
“I am grateful that a fair agreement has been reached between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP after a more than 100 day strike that impacted millions in Los Angeles and throughout the country,” Bass said. “Those on the line have been the hardest hit during this period and there have been ripple effects throughout our entire city.”
Hollywood’s most famous stars were eager to get back on set. George Clooney, Tyler Perry and other A-list actors offered to pay millions more in union dues to help end the actors’ strike, a source with knowledge of the proposal previously told CNN.
Clues from the writers’ strike
SAG-AFTRA’s deal follows on the heels of the Writers Guild agreement, whose strike ended after 148 days. The WGA deal ramped up pressure for SAG-AFTRA to reach an agreement along the same lines. SAG-AFTRA joined the picket line a little over two months after the Writers Guild went on strike.
Their contract, which will expire in May 2026, includes pay increases, better benefits, protections against the studios’ use of artificial intelligence, guarantees for streaming compensation, longer-duration employment terms and other perks.
“We’re thrilled to see SAG-AFTRA members win a contract that creates new protections for performers and gives them a greater share of the immense value they create,” the WGA said in a statement Wednesday.
SAG-AFTRA’s demands were similar to WGA’s, particularly regarding artificial intelligence and residuals payments from streaming services for their work. WGA’s ratified contract included assurances that AI cannot write or rewrite literary material and will require AI-generated materials to be disclosed to writers. Both actors and writers alike believe AI poses an existential threat to their livelihoods.
A major sticking point during negotiations was SAG-AFTRA’s demands for an 11% wage increase in the first year of the proposed contract term, while the studios had only agreed to a 5% pay raise.
Work for many writers resumed promptly. Late night’s biggest hosts – Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Seth Meyers – returned to the air quickly after the writers strike ended. But Hollywood actors have not appeared on their shows to promote their movies during the actors strike.
The Hollywood strikes have been costly, with a nationwide economic impact of at least $5 billion, according to economists. The impacts have gone beyond production; it’s affected local businesses and restaurants, as well as makeup artists and custodians.
– CNN’s Liam Reilly contributed to this report.
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.