Getting Hollywood Back Up and Running Won’t Be Easy

Getting Hollywood Back Up and Running Won’t Be Easy

Daisy Edgar-Jones, the 25-year-old British actress with an increasingly crowded dance card, will soon experience just how complicated Hollywood’s rush to return to work is going to be.

Now that a tentative deal has been reached in the actors’ strike — and assuming union members approve the new contract in the coming days — Ms. Edgar-Jones is heading back to the Oklahoma set of “Twisters.” The production of the sequel to the 1996 disaster film “Twister” was paused this summer when the strike began. Now, with only weeks to finish the film for a planned release next summer, there’s no time to waste.

That means Ms. Edgar-Jones will have to walk away from a role in a drama that Ron Howard is set to begin directing soon in Australia. Before the strike, her schedule was set up to accommodate both jobs. But with the entertainment industry hustling to make up for months of lost work, there is suddenly a pileup of projects in various states of readiness.

Timothée Chalamet is in a similar situation. He is set to portray Bob Dylan in James Mangold’s “A Complete Unknown,” beginning in March. But Warner Bros. moved the release of its sci-fi epic “Dune Two” to the same month so Mr. Chalamet and other stars in the cast, like Zendaya and Austin Butler, can promote the film — something that was not allowed during the strike. Details on how Mr. Chalamet would juggle production of one movie and publicity for another are being worked out.

Those are just two of the small-scale dramas happening as Hollywood finally revs its engines after six long months of idling because of the dual writers’ and actors’ strikes. The traffic jam includes projects that were paused because of the strikes, those that are ready to be released but need actors to publicize them and those that were scheduled to begin filming and now may be delayed because of actors’ delayed responsibilities elsewhere.

“It’s a bit like all those ships that were stuck in the harbor during Covid because they couldn’t offload them fast enough,” the producer Todd Garner said. “They are just going to have to go through the canal one by one, and then it will catch up and resume again.”

Productions that were shut down midstream will be the first to start back up. That means cameras could begin rolling in Malta on Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator 2” in as little as three weeks. “Deadpool 3,” filming in Norfolk, England, could restart in as little as two weeks. “Mortal Kombat 2,” which Mr. Garner is producing, could be back in days because it’s being filmed on a soundstage on the Gold Coast of Australia, Mr. Garner said. With writers furiously finishing episodes, television shows will soon follow.

That’s the good news. The bad news is it won’t be easy, and it definitely won’t be cheap. Depending on a production’s size, getting started back up again will add $500,000 to $4 million to the budget, said two studio executives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the tensions surrounding the strike. That’s in addition to extra costs for maintaining leases on soundstages and keeping rented equipment throughout the pause, the better to get things up and running quickly when the strike ended.

Naveen Chopra, the chief financial officer for Paramount Global, said during the company’s recent earnings call that the studio had spent “nearly $60 million of strike-related costs” in the past quarter “to retain production capabilities while the strike is ongoing.”

Should productions extend into the end of December, studios will have to pay a premium to keep casts and crews working during Hollywood’s traditional holiday break — the last two weeks of the year. And costs for equipment, crews and locations are likely to go up as a result of demand, in an industry that has already been devastated by the financial fallout from the strikes.

The work stoppages cost thousands of people work, both inside and outside the entertainment industry. In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom estimated the loss for the California economy at more than $5 billion.

The ancillary businesses that support production in Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere are also itching to get back to work. The impact has been heavy on owners of independent studio space. About 90 percent of the production space in Los Angeles, for instance, is rented out project by project, said Jeff Stotland, executive vice president for global studios at Hudson Pacific, the real estate entity that owns Sunset Studios. That means many of those spaces have gone months without new tenants.

“Eighty to 90 percent of those businesses have just been eviscerated,” he said.

Half of Hudson Pacific’s soundstages are committed to long-term leases, so they generated income during the shutdown. Studios that have more short-term rentals, however, could raise their prices — both because of demand and because of the need to recoup the losses from the strikes.

“The backdrop to all this is what are we coming back into?” Mr. Stotland said. “The industry itself is going through a transformation, and there’s uncertainty around the quantity of production. We feel that there’s going to be a significant amount of production in the next sort of 12 to 18 months, which may or may not be representative of a long-term trend. It’s just unclear.”

The fire hose of demand could be a good thing, at least for 2024. When studios are more desperate to fill their slates and can’t wait for an Emma Stone or a Brad Pitt to become available, they may to turn to actors with plenty of talent but less widespread fame.

“Not everyone can do everything, and studios can’t wait forever for these actors,” said Jay Gassner, co-head of United Talent Agency’s talent department. “So maybe they will spread the wealth and we won’t feel the impact of less television and movies until 2025.”

Even with the focus on getting things back up, there is concern that the labor strife isn’t over, which may also prompt an increase in production in the near term. The contract with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the labor union that covers truck drivers, hairstylists and film editors among many other behind-the-scenes jobs, expires in July.

“There is going to be a focus on the looming negotiations with unions that represent crews,” said Miranda Banks, chair of Loyola Marymount University’s department of film, television and media studies. “Studios are going to want to get a lot done before another potential work stoppage.”

Brooks Barnes contributed reporting.




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