Looks like movies [are] back on the menu, boys
It only took five months, and for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two (sorry about that one, Duncan) to be delayed, but the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has finally struck a “tentative agreement” with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) to end the strike. What strike? Oh, boy.
The strike, which lasted for nearly four months and ran alongside the Writer’s Guild of America’s strike which ended back in September after securing wage gains, minimum staffing requirements, and most importantly – major protection against the implementation of AI. SAG-AFRTA’s demands were mightily similar to that of the WGA’s – and the union finally got them.
In its initial announcement, the body noted that it had bargained a contract “valued at over 1 billion dollars,” while specifically noting the “above-pattern” minimum compensation increases,” “unprecedented provisions for consent,” and “compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI.” That’s the gist at least.
The Union managed to wrangle, for the first time, a “streaming participation bonus” that’ll compensate actors for their work long after the initial filming period has ended. Other details include pension and health cap increases alongside “compensation increases for background performers, and critical contract provisions protecting diverse communities.”
Unfortunately, it’s not all said and done just yet. During its announcement, SAG-AFTRA mentioned that the deal was still subject to revision from its National Board, which could derail the entire thing. That’ll be taking place on Friday, according to Engadget. It’s likely a formality that’ll have no bearing on the deal but tamper those expectations, just in case.
Netflix finally admits it needs to do better
Netflix is like a many-headed dragon from all your favourite mythos. For every original that receives a halfway decent reception from both critics and audiences, it’s got two more Death Notes up its sleeve. It took a ‘throw everything at the wall and see what sticks’ sort of approach and audiences have suffered for it. This isn’t some astute observation made by Stuff – Netflix has outright admitted it.
In an interview with Variety, the mega-streamer’s head of film, Scott Stuber, said that quality was never the most important factor and that quantity is what it was after. “We were growing a new studio,” Stuber said. “We’d only been doing this for a few years, and we were up against 100-year-old companies. So you have to ask yourself, ‘What is your business model?’ And for a while, it was just making sure that we had enough. We needed volume.”
That’s all changing come 2024 if you believe Stuber. Rather than release 50 (50!) movies each year, it’s looking to half that number and focus on around 25-30 films per annum.
“Right now, we’re not trying to hit a set number of film releases. It’s about ‘Let’s make what we believe in,’” Stuber says. “And let’s actually put forth a slate that we can stand behind and say, ‘This is the best version of a romantic comedy. This is the best version of a thriller. This is the best version of a drama.’”
It’s not like Netflix is averse to making quality content when it tries. Tomorrow will see the global release of David Fincher’s The Killer directly on Netflix – a film that’s so far garnered critical success.
Disney wants to strengthen its hand in India
Despite the growing number of reports that Disney was looking to rid itself of its business in India, the multimedia conglomerate’s chief executive Bob Iger has come out in support of the opposite, stating that Disney “would like to stay” in the country. In fact, it’s looking to strengthen its hold in the world’s most populous regions, it said during a recent earnings call.
The problem, apparently, is Hotstar. The service is struggling to retain subscribers after the quarter’s results showed that it ended up with 37.6 million subscribers – down 2.8 million from the June quarter. To put that into perspective, the service had a stable 61 million subscribers in September of 2022. It’s managed to regain plenty of non-paying subscribers thanks to the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup.
It’s apparently hoping for a jump in those numbers during the next quarter, with the potential for a new India partner alongside them. Disney is reportedly near selling off the India business, according to Bloomberg.
Disney’s got bigger fish to fry with its portfolio of cable TV channels within India. “Our linear business actually does quite well, it’s making money,” said Iger. “But we know that other parts of that business are challenged for us and for others. And we are looking, I’ll call it expansively,” he added. “We are considering our options there. We have an opportunity to strengthen our hand.”
What that might look like, there’s no telling. Should the company sell off Hotstar, it could be good news for South Africa. Ever wondered why the Disney+ app on local soil is so… poor? It’s got Hotstar’s tech behind it, with a reskinned Disney+ interface on the surface. Sell that off, and we’ll likely get a new app to go with it. We hope.
The Avengers are back – just not in the way you think
We’d be willing to bet that for most, seeing The Avengers in a headline is worth whipping out a top-tier eye-roll. We’ve got Marvel Studios to thank for that, after having spent the last two years pumping out MCU content like it was Netflix pre-2024. You might instead want to save that eye-roll for later once you get a look at Lego’s 5,200-piece Avengers Tower price tag.
The set, which stands 91cm tall, is overflowing with just about every Marvel minifig you could hope for. Hell, they even Lego-fied Kevin Feige and threw him in the set, too. Having 31 minifigures and 5,200 pieces to play with costs, though. A lot. Lego’s set a tear-inducing $500 (R9,200) price on this thing with a 24 November 2023 release date.
The set includes several dioramas, too, letting those rich few a chance to recreate some of the Avengers’ most iconic sets like the Chitauri battle to the party scene in the second film. It’ll even open up through a split down the middle and arrive with a Chitauri ship and a Quinjet out of the box. Still… $500. Really?
You can expect these to turn up in South Africa not long after the 24 November release, though nothing is set in stone yet.