Top Hollywood executive Donna Langley addressed the ongoing SAG-AFTRA negotiations on Wednesday evening, saying the studio side would spend “as long as it takes” in the negotiating room until the two sides can reach a resolution.
He declined to speak in detail in a scheduled appearance at Bloomberg’s Screentime event, but the NBCUniversal Studio Group chairman and chief content officer nonetheless said, “I think the best way I can say it is that we spent time with the actors, and we ‘want to spend all the time we need to… We can come up with a solution and get the industry back on its feet and get back to business as were our goals from day one.” Langley was interviewed by Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw in Los Angeles.
As for the possibility of the SAG-AFTRA strike continuing and impacting the studio’s 2024 film slate, Langley said, “I don’t relish the idea of a summer season without volume of movies. If I’ve learned anything during COVID, it’s that a lack of volume really impacts the cadence of moviegoing.” “And we were just seeing a recovery from that in 2023 in the summer. If we lose that, it will have a lasting, meaningful and not-so-good impact on our industry.”
Earlier that day, the executive attended the final round of negotiations on a new three-year SAG-AFTRA contract that could put an end to the union’s ongoing strike, which has now lasted nearly three months. She’s joined in talks on the studio side by Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos — who is speaking Thursday morning at the Bloomberg conference — and Warner Bros. CEO Ted Sarandos. Discovery’s David Zaslav and Disney CEO Bob Iger.
During her appearance on Screentime, Langley also answered a question about why it took so long for Writers Guild of America negotiations to conclude with a deal (Langley, Sarandos, Zaslav, and Iger were present in the final days of negotiations). “The experience in the room with the writers was difficult because we had to deal with issues like artificial intelligence and minimal staffing and things that up to this point were unprecedented,” she said. “I can’t speak to why it took as long as it did. It just took as long as it did.
On October 2, SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP negotiators resumed negotiations for the first time since the performers’ union went on strike. The two parties have been negotiating on and off since then, with studio leaders — Sarandos, Zaslav, Iger, and Langley — once again present in the discussions. Their presence raised hopes that the parties could soon reach an agreement and end the actors’ strike, which essentially led to a local suspension of union productions except in cases where the union offered a temporary agreement.
However, there are still many issues for both sides to work on. Through these negotiations, SAG-AFTRA made a bold proposal to actors from streaming projects to receive a portion of the platforms’ subscription revenue. Before they returned to the negotiating room in early October, the two sides had yet to reach an agreement on AI regulations, increasing minimum rates, and a host of other issues.
Regarding AI, Langley said: “The things that people are so afraid of don’t happen at our company. We are far from that. We are firm believers that innovation comes from real humans. Nothing tells us that AI can change the way we do business.” Our business.
Beginning on July 14, the SAG-AFTRA strike crippled the industry for months. The 148-day concurrent Writers Guild of America strike concluded on September 27, but the majority of major physical productions were still without union representatives. Entertainment employment has fallen by 45,000 jobs since the WGA strike began in May, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Oct. 6.
In July, Langley was promoted to studio group president and chief content officer as the massive media conglomerate struggles to adapt to a new world order in which an experienced executive with a solid creative vision can oversee all film, streaming and TV content. Langley previously served as president of Universal Filmed Entertainment after running Universal Pictures. It is widely credited with winning major filmmakers and talent, as well as aligning it with key production partners including animation powerhouse Illumination Entertainment and Blumhouse.
This year, Universal and Illumination Super Mario Brothers The film grossed a whopping $1.35 billion at the worldwide box office, proving that families are finally ready to return to theaters after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Universal is also home Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster drama for adults. The three-hour, R-rated film defied all odds and grossed $939.3 million worldwide to become the highest-grossing biographical drama of all time. (Langley successfully lured Nolan into the fold after the director parted ways with Warner Bros.) So far this year, Super Mario Bros. And Oppenheimer They are the No. 2 and 3 highest-grossing films of 2023 so far behind Warners. Barbie ($1.43 billion).
Langley did not try to downplay the challenges facing the business. She added: “The big picture has never been more volatile, and it remains volatile,” noting that global box office revenues are still down about 20 percent from 2019, despite the summer of 2023 falling by only 5 percent. “So when there is a season full of good movies that people want to see, I feel very optimistic.”
She also agreed that it was worth noting that the original films e.g Barbie And Oppenheimer You did it well. “It kind of goes back to your first question about where cinema is headed. I think authenticity is important. I think we’re probably seeing audiences getting a little tired of the tried-and-tested blockbuster formula of being as good and as entertaining as it can be,” she said.
Langley was also frank in admitting that her company has to be careful about spending too much on films produced for its streaming service, NBCU’s Peacock. “We’re still in the experimental phase with that, to be honest. We’ve done a few of them with varying levels of success. “When we make a movie through the studio system, it gets all the bells and whistles. We are oriented towards theatrical filmmaking. “I think the price point is maybe a little high.”
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