Late-night shows return as actors restart negotiations with Hollywood studios


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Host Seth Meyers during Corrections on April 7, 2023.
Lloyd Barrell | Nbcuniversal | Getty Images

Now that the Hollywood writers’ strike is over, late night hosts are preparing their first opening monologues since May, and actors are going back to the negotiating table with studios.

After nearly 150 days on the picket lines, the Writers Guild of America struck a tentative deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers last week, allowing writers to return to work and striking actors to start up their negotiations. WGA membership is currently in the process of voting on the contract, with expectations that ratification will come late next week.

The first to return are late night heavyweights Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert on Monday, followed by John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” on Sunday.

Meyers, host of “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” spent much of his pre-strike shows commenting on former President Donald Trump’s compounding legal problems. He noted that his first show back will be an hour-long “Closer Look” segment, a recap of news items from during the strike.

“I’m so excited to be back, but I didn’t pay attention to the news at all the last five months … I hope I didn’t miss like three indictments,” Meyers joked on “TODAY” Monday.

The WGA secured pay increases in each of the next three years, artificial intelligence restrictions and a new residual system for streaming based on viewership. The guild also negotiated higher contribution rates to health benefits and pensions, as well as a guaranteed number of writers in writers rooms for television shows.

Now it’s the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists’ turn.

The actors guild begins its negotiations with the likes of DisneyParamountUniversal and Warner Bros. Discovery on Monday.

SAG-AFTRA is looking to improve wages, working conditions and health and pension benefits, as well as establish guardrails for the use of AI in future television and film productions. Additionally, the union is seeking more transparency from streaming services about viewership so that residual payments can be made equitable to linear TV. The guild is also looking to standardize the self-tape process.

Industry players expect the negotiations will be quick, now that SAG-AFTRA has the WGA deal as a template.

Not so fast

Still, even if a tentative agreement is reached in the next few weeks, Hollywood will be slow to restart production on films and television shows. Not only will SAG-AFTRA members need to vote on the new contract, which could take a week or more, but there will be a scramble to gather crews and cast back to set.

In a situation that would be similar to the return from pandemic restrictions, productions will be competing for studio space, locations and talent schedules. This could become increasingly tricky as the holiday season approaches, a time when production typically slows down.

Additionally, productions that were shooting internationally during the strike, like Warner Bros.’ “Beetlejuice 2,” Universal’s “Wicked,” and Disney and Marvel’s “Deadpool 3,” may need to wait for those crews to wrap up projects before returning to work on U.S.-based productions.

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson star in Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of “Dune.”
Warner Bros.

Some studios have already indicated that they will wait until next year to resume production. This means that post-production processes will also be delayed — including, editing and special effects. It’s unclear what impact that could have on the release calendar for upcoming film and TV shows.

Already, Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s “Dune: Part Two” fled to 2024 as did Sony’s “Kraven the Hunter” and “Ghosbusters: Afterlife” sequel.

And much of the reason “Dune: Part Two” departed the calendar was because its cast could not promote the film during the strike. Once SAG-AFTRA makes a deal with the AMPTP, those stars will be able to return to late night to drum up interest for films.

That could be particularly important for Academy Award hopefuls set for release later this year.

In the meantime, late night hosts will look elsewhere for guests. Meyers said viewers can expect to see politicians, journalists and authors as guests on the show until actors are permitted to promote their upcoming projects.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is a member of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. NBCUniversal is the distributor of “Wicked” and “The Late Show with Seth Meyers.”

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