Now that the writers strike is over, Hollywood studios are gearing up to get production rolling again — once the other half of this year’s dual strike, the ongoing SAG-AFTRA walkout, is finally settled.
From “Star Trek” to “Superman: Legacy” to “Abbott Elementary” to “Wednesday,” every studio, network and streamer has priority film and TV projects that they hope to fast-track back into development or production. Audiences cannot survive on reruns alone. Had the strike lasted a few weeks longer, the 2023-24 broadcast season would have become even more dependent on unscripted shows and programs imported from streaming platforms and overseas markets.
Several big movie projects could see preproduction resume quickly. Paramount is hoping to have writers fine-tuning scripts for its planned reboot of “Star Trek” and its adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Rainbow Six.” And Warner Bros. would dearly love to see Matt Reeves hunched over his computer, diving back into Gotham’s underworld with his planned “The Batman” sequel. Other projects, such as “Minecraft” and James Gunn’s “Superman: Legacy,” have completed scripts and can begin production in the spring, assuming there’s a deal with actors. Universal is hoping that the resolution of the writers strike will mean that the studio will get a new draft of “Fast X: Part 2,” currently expected to roll into theaters on April 4, 2025.
“The priorities seem to be things that were all but greenlit but stopped because of the strike,” says Elsa Ramo, managing partner at Ramo Law and an attorney who has represented Imagine Entertainment and Skydance. “They need to figure out how they finish what they started.”
That’s good news for a number of productions that have been stuck in limbo, their crews waiting to get the call to return to the set. As soon as SAG-AFTRA’s work stoppage ends, production can resume on several major movies, including the sequel to “Gladiator,” which was more than halfway done filming when cameras stopped rolling in Malta in July as the actors started picketing. There’s “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part Two,” a globe-spanning adventure that still had some scenes to shoot, as well as “Beetlejuice 2,” Clint Eastwood’s “Juror No. 2,” and “Deadpool 3,” which, in some cases, only had a few days of work remaining. Also stalled was “Twisters,” a sequel to the 1996 tornado thriller, starring Glen Powell and Daisy Edgar-Jones as storm chasers. That project was roughly a week into production in Oklahoma before it shut down.
The coming flood of production will create a logistical nightmare for production executives and everyone else involved. For one, finding soundstage space and locations to shoot will be a challenge. Some studio executives predict a brutal competition for top talent.
“As soon as the strikes are over, everybody is going to want to go after the same five directors and four stars,” says one production chief. “It becomes a supply-and-demand question. And whereas before the strike the shooting schedule was staggered, everybody is going to be putting a ton of movies and shows into production at exactly the same time.”
On the television front, most networks and streamers are focused on picking back up with long-running shows and big-budget freshman series that were in preproduction or already shooting, rather than developing anything new. That’s because they won’t have to put in as much time filling out writers rooms or casting new roles. Instead, especially for shows many seasons in, they can reassemble the same ensembles and creative teams and get back to work relatively quickly. As soon as the actors endorse a deal, broadcast shows such as ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Abbott Elementary,” Fox’s “9-1-1: Lone Star,” and Dick Wolf’s “Law & Order,” “Chicago” and “FBI” franchises are among the top-priority projects to begin shooting. But that also means it could be a “rough couple of months” of return-to-work schedules for the writers and talent attached to those shows, according to J.D. Connor, an associate professor of cinema and media studies at USC.
“Networks are going to really want to move things through quickly, as quickly as they can. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see some experimentation there, in terms of the overlap between writing and shooting in an even more compressed way than we’ve gotten to in this time-delivery system,” Connor says.
While those episodes are being fast-tracked, Connor says you could expect any remaining holes in broadcast’s October and November plans to be full of some more “wild little experiments” like CBS airing reruns of “Yellowstone,” a hit for sister cable network Paramount Network, that has proven to be a big draw for the broadcast audience.
HBO is eager to take fans back to Westeros for more backstabbing, incest and power plays with the second season of “House of the Dragon,” targeting a summer 2024 premiere, and looking ahead to a yet-to-be-ordered third season of the “Game of Thrones” prequel. While “House of the Dragon” was able to wrap filming on Season 2 during the strikes, as the scripts were already complete and the production is under a U.K. union contract, HBO was not able to produce new episodes of “The White Lotus,” “Euphoria” and “The Last of Us,” and will be putting its focus on those projects in 2024, instead of new development.
For Netflix, top of mind is writing scripts for and filming the second season of “Wednesday” and the fifth and final season of “Stranger Things,” the latter needing to happen before its aging stars can no longer pass for high schoolers.
TV development budgets for 2024 are expected to be greatly pared down as the studios work through the backlog after the five-month strike pause. On the movie side, some titles that were targeted for debut in 2024 or 2025 will have to be delayed. That’s a problem for cinemas, which have been struggling with the dearth of new releases for more than two years because the pandemic upended shooting schedules in 2020 and 2021.
“We’re still well below where we were in terms of the number of films being released,” says Eric Wold, a senior analyst with B. Riley. “We were struggling to catch up to pre-pandemic levels before the strikes, and I assume this will only compound those production delays and supply chain issues.”
The mad rush to get production restarted could quickly taper off, as studios, networks and streamers trim the number of projects in development and Hollywood is left to reacclimate to a business that’s been fundamentally changed. The Peak TV bubble was already losing air before the strikes; after the work stoppage, the employment landscape will be significantly leaner once production gets into full swing, hopefully by early next year.
“I talked to a couple managers today, and a lot of writers, directors, producers are hoping that there’s just going to be an influx of incoming calls and dealmaking,” says Ramo. “And I think reps across the board are tempering their clients’ expectations. That’s not necessarily something that’s going to happen.”
Matt Donnelly contributed to this report.
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