The much-anticipated 2023 Tony Awards, the biggest night in theater, have hit a major roadblock due to the ongoing Hollywood Writer’s Strike. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has denied a requested waiver that would allow this year’s ceremony to be broadcast as scheduled. As a result, the Tony Awards committee is set to meet on Monday to determine the next steps, according to several media reports.
Among the options the committee will consider are holding the awards during a non-televised dinner or news conference, or postponing the show until the strike is over, as reported by the New York Post. The decision will have a significant impact on the Broadway community, which has already suffered from the pandemic-related shutdowns.
Ariana DeBose, who hosted last year’s Tony Awards, was set to host again but would have done so during a scaled-down ceremony, as reported by Deadline.com. The WGA strike, which began on May 2, has already forced many programs to be shut down, revamped, or replaced with reruns. On Sunday, the “MTV Movie & TV Awards” live ceremony was cancelled, replaced by a pre-taped event due to celebrities unwilling to cross WGA picket lines.
Picketing continues across several major studios, including CBS’s Studio City lot, Fox Studios lot, and Paramount Studios in Hollywood. The last WGA strike, which lasted from November 2007 until February 2008, had cost the local economy between $2 to $3 billion. Industry experts estimate that the current strike could last even longer, with both sides appearing to still be at loggerheads.
The WGA is pushing for several improvements, including higher residual pay for streaming programs with larger viewership and industry standards on the number of writers assigned to each show. The union is also calling for increases in foreign streaming residuals and regulations preventing the use of artificial intelligence technology to write or rewrite any literary material.
Despite their demands, the WGA negotiators have said no new talks are scheduled with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents Hollywood studios. The AMPTP issued a position paper last week outlining its take on some key negotiating points in the labor impasse.
Responding to a union demand for minimum staffing levels and employment guarantees, the alliance said such a move would “require the employment of writers whether they’re needed for the creative process or not.” The alliance also pushed back on the issue of streaming residuals, saying the union’s most recent contract gave writers a 46% increase in streaming residuals taking effect in 2022. It contends that the union’s proposal would represent a 200% increase over current residual rates.
The issue of artificial intelligence is another point of contention. The AMPTP suggested that writers “want to be able to use this technology as part of their creative process, without changing how credits are determined.” The alliance called for “a lot more discussion” on the matter.
Meanwhile, the Directors Guild of America has also started labor talks with the AMPTP, seeking to address many of the same issues involved in the WGA stalemate. The DGA’s contract with the AMPTP expires on June 30. It remains to be seen what will happen with the Tony Awards, but it is clear that the strike is having a significant impact on the entertainment industry and its audiences.