Hollywood’s Post-Strike Hellscape

Photo: Myung J. Chun/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
November 3, 2023

Call it what you’d like—the home stretch, the final countdown, the fourth hour of Killers of the Flower Moon—but barring some catastrophic breakdown or another time-suck proposal from George Clooney, the SAG-AFTRA strike is almost, finally, over. Jonathan Handel and I will analyze the deal points once they’re announced, hopefully before Sunday, but in conversations around town this week, it seems as if people are already looking beyond the strike.    

Unfortunately, that’s not a picturesque view. What should be a time of relief and celebration in Hollywood is more akin to what soldiers experience in countless war movies—the horrors of battle give way to the equally grim reality of the new world for which they fought. The post-strike Hollywood landscape may at least function, but it will be markedly scarier than even pre-strike Hollywood—a world where the Peak TV bubble had burst, studios were trying to make fewer things and spend less, and the diminishing economics of streaming for everyone besides Netflix were causing an industry-wide freakout that everyone kinda forgot about while they freaked out about the strike. In short, the bad is about to be really bad.

That’s not to minimize the pain of the shutdowns: the industry suffered an estimated $6.5 billion in economic loss (it’s likely way more); all those layoffs and furloughs and the projects not ordered; and the further disruption of the theatrical movie business, which is still reeling from Covid. Also: The freaking Palm closed in Beverly Hills. So many people have been hurt by these strikes, and the vast majority of them are not among the 175,000 members of the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA, who will benefit from the resulting deals. Their suffering, largely undiscussed in the media since it doesn’t fit the narratives of either side, will also be a legacy of this lost year.