LOS ANGELES (AP) — Leaders of the screenwriters union declared their nearly five-month-old strike over Tuesday after board members approved a contract agreement with studios, bringing Hollywood at least partly back from a historic halt in production.
The governing boards of the eastern and western branches of the Writers Guild of America and their joint negotiating committee all voted to accept the deal, and afterward declared that the strike would be over and writers would be free to work starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
Late-night talk shows — the first to go dark when writers walked out on May 2 — are likely the first shows that will resume.
The writers still have to vote to ratify the contract themselves, but lifting the strike will allow them to work during that process, the Writers Guild told members in an email.
After Tuesday’s board votes, the contracts were released to the writers, who had not yet been given any details on the deal, which their leaders called “exceptional.”
The members will vote between Oct. 2 and 9.
Hollywood actors remain on strike with no talks yet on the horizon, but a new spirit of optimism animated those who were picketing Tuesday for the first time since writers reached their tentative deal Sunday night.
“For a hot second, I really thought that this was going to go on until next year,” said Marissa Cuevas, an actor who has appeared on the TV series “Kung Fu” and “The Big Bang Theory.” “Knowing that at least one of us has gotten a good deal gives a lot of hope that we will also get a good deal.”
Writers’ picket lines had been suspended, but they were encouraged to walk in solidarity with actors, and many were on the lines Tuesday, including “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, who picketed alongside friend and “ER” actor Noah Wyle as he has throughout the strikes.
“We would never have had the leverage we had if SAG had not gone out,” Weiner said. “They were very brave to do it.”
Striking actors also voted to authorize their leadership to potentially expand their walkout to include the lucrative video game market, a step that could put new pressure on Hollywood studios to make a deal with the performers who provide voices and stunts for games.
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists announced the move late Monday, saying that 98% of its members voted to go on strike against video game companies if ongoing negotiations are not successful. The announcement came ahead of more talks planned for Tuesday.
Acting in video games can include a variety of roles, from voice performances to motion capture work as well as stunts. Video game actors went on strike in 2016 in a work stoppage that lasted nearly a year.
Some of the same issues are at play in the video game negotiations as in the broader actors strike that has shut down Hollywood for months, including wages, safety measures and protections on the use of artificial intelligence. The companies involved include gaming giants Activision, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Take 2 Productions as well as Disney and Warner Bros.′ video game divisions.
“It’s time for the video game companies to stop playing games and get serious about reaching an agreement on this contract,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a statement.
Audrey Cooling, a spokesperson for video game producers, said they are “continuing to negotiate in good faith” and have reached tentative agreements on more than half of the proposals on the table.
So far this year, U.S. consumers have spent $34.9 billion on video games, consoles and accessories, according to market research group Circana.
The threat of a video game strike emerged as Hollywood writers were on the verge of getting back to work after months on the picket lines.
The alliance of studios, streaming services and producers has chosen to negotiate only with the writers so far, and has made no overtures yet toward restarting talks with SAG-AFTRA. That will presumably change soon.
SAG-AFTRA leaders have said they will look closely at the writers’ agreement, which includes many of the same issues, but it will not affect their demands.
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