Fall film festival season is underway, with Venice ongoing, Telluride occurring over the weekend, and TIFF kicking off this Thursday. In the midst of what should be cinema’s most glamorous fortnight, the double strike continues unabated. If anything, we’re going backwards after a series of recent false starts as AMPTP met amongst themselves last week to hash out some internal issues. These are companies united in collective bargaining, but they are, in every other way, competitors. And especially when you talk about traditional movie studios and streaming companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple, you’re talking about companies that are fundamentally not in the same business. I had been saying “what if AMPTP breaks up” as a joke but like…what IF AMPTP breaks up?


Barry Diller, former CEO of both Paramount and 20th Century Fox, expressed this very idea heading into the long Labor Day weekend, saying, I think the producers ought to go [to the guilds] and say, ‘We’re on our own, we’re going to go straight with you directly, we are your savior. Historically, we’ve been in business together for literally 100 years. We are your natural allies, not your enemies.'”

I dunno about “we are your savior”, at this point, the studios need the unions to prop up their public perception, which remains in the gutter as public support for the unions is still, months later, overwhelming. If anything, it’s going UP. The latest Gallup Poll puts support among the American public over 70% favoring the writers. But I agree with Diller’s overall sentiment. If AMPTP can’t agree among themselves how to move forward productively in negotiations with the WGA, and SAG-AFTRA after them, then yes, they probably should seriously consider splitting up and making their own deals. After all, it’s working for the non-AMPTP companies, like A24 and Neon, which premiered Ferrari in Venice over the weekend. 


Adam Driver put it in plain language:

This is my point! Companies like Neon and A24 are worth a FRACTION of the multi-billion-dollar studios and streamers, yet they can sign the “dream demands” of SAG without hassle and get on with their business, which means it’s not really about the money. If it was, if it was actually true that the studios cannot afford to meet the “dream demands” of the unions, then a smaller company like Neon DEFINITELY wouldn’t be able to. But Neon can! Which means the studios can. They just won’t. 


(The studios apparently love shooting themselves in the foot. Matthew Belloni revealed in his Puck newsletter that Taylor Swift’s dad, Scott, called AMC CEO Adam Aron directly about distributing her upcoming concert film, The Eras Tour, using a direct-to-consumer model after being “disappointed” in discussions with a couple of studios about distributing the film. The Eras Tour is estimated to make $150 million, of which no studio will receive a dime. Taylor Swift signed the interim agreement AND told the studios to go f-ck themselves!)

I wonder what IS stopping any company from just pulling out of the AMPTP tomorrow and signing a deal with the unions and getting people back to work. If there are any labor lawyers who can weigh in, please do, because at this point, this seems like the obvious solution. Studios and streamers have different priorities—one cares infinitely more about theatrical box office than the other, for instance—and Sony doesn’t even HAVE a streaming service to worry about, so what do they care about streaming residuals? What does Sony care about transparency in streaming data, or anything else to do with streaming? They’re not in that business, period. But yet, they’re held up by the collective bargaining model. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Sony to just go to the guilds directly and make a deal that actually works for them?


There’s no end in sight for the strikes. But maybe one way forward is for the studio side to start thinking seriously about whether or not the AMPTP model is even working for them. It doesn’t seem to be. AMPTP has survived since 1924, but up until 2007, when Netflix started streaming movies and shows online, everyone was in the same business. Now, there are essentially two businesses: theatrical and streaming, and their priorities are not the same. The way they will compensate talent is not the same. Maybe it’s time to admit that it’s not the writers and actors being “unrealistic”, but the CEOs, for expecting to be able to make one deal that satisfies all parties, when they can’t even agree amongst themselves how to move forward.