Hollywood’s Billion Dollar Math War

Photo: Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Image
Jonathan Handel
July 23, 2023

This tortured season of Hollywood strife has now reached a new and entirely predictable milestone: it has devolved into studio spin. In recent days, for instance, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has blasted the striking actors (SAG-AFTRA) by saying that their own most recent offer to the union was generous, even exceedingly generous—worth at least a very headline-friendly $1 billion cumulatively in wage and residuals increases. 

After a week-plus in which the AMPTP has seen the actors, and their increasingly Che Guevara-like president Fran Drescher, whip up public support for their cause, this act of P.R. reciprocity seemed like an attempt to level the playing field and demonstrate that the studios had been doing their part to get everyone back to work. After all, in this highly sensitive strike season, no side wants to look greedy or aloof. Perhaps this public demonstration was also intended to suggest that the studios really are doing everything in their power to reset the system equitably.

But, in fact, the AMPTP deal points are far less impressive than that P.R.-ready talking point, and a billion dollars is an overestimate, too. At a very high level, $1 billion sounds like real money, but that’s only $333 million per year for each year of the three year contract among all the combined studios, a relatively small cost saving—basically a CNN+ each. If you drill down further, there are eight AMPTP members (five legacy studios and three pure play streamers) who will collectively cover that figure in their proceeds