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The Hollywood Strikes & The UK Film Industry

Updated: Mar 12



I've received many inquiries lately about the sluggish pace of recovery within the UK film and television industry. Many are worried about the long-term repercussions for the UK industry and the future. In response, I've compiled an article that delves into the potential reasons behind the industry's slow rebound, examines the broader implications for the UK market, and discusses the stance we should adopt moving forward.


As we navigate these turbulent times, we must maintain optimism about the potential short-term opportunities. However, we must also approach the long-term outlook with caution, recognising the need for strategic foresight and inclusive dialogue to address the industry-wide challenges that lie ahead. The path to recovery and growth will require a concerted effort from all stakeholders, emphasising adaptability, collaboration, and a commitment to sustainable practices.


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The Hollywood strikes, a recurring phenomenon with profound impacts on the industry, have traditionally led to a culling within the sector. This process, seen as an opportunity to reduce costs during periods of halted production and uncertainty, has been exacerbated by the burgeoning pressures on the streaming market.


Already marked by unsustainable financial practices due to the fierce competition among platforms like Netflix, Amazon Studios, and Disney+ to dominate global audiences, the strikes provided the perfect solution to end a period of rampant expansion and extravagant spending. The result is that the strikes have been pivotal in accelerating the bursting of the streaming bubble by as much as two years.


There's an alternative perspective worth considering: the industry's current challenges, magnified by the rapid evolution of new technologies, might be rooted in a lack of clear leadership or a definitive strategy to address these issues. This situation raises concerns that the sector could spiral out of control without any direct intention of remedying the underlying problems.


While seemingly shortsighted, the recent strikes could inadvertently prove beneficial in the long term. They highlight the pressing need for a strategic overhaul—something that might have led to the financial downfall of key players in the streaming market if the boom had continued unchecked for another couple of years. It suggests that, despite a lack of deliberate planning, these disruptions may force a necessary reevaluation and potentially steer the industry towards a more sustainable path.


It's crucial to acknowledge that the entertainment industry is undergoing massive changes, necessitating a dialogue that encompasses all stakeholders. The strikes have highlighted the urgent need for comprehensive conversations between unions and industry players, aiming for solutions that acknowledge the necessity for sacrifice and understanding from all parties involved. However, the approach so far suggests there was a focus on immediate gains rather than long-term stability and inclusivity.


The strikes may eventually be seen as a critical misstep, benefiting a select few. Moving forward, fostering an inclusive dialogue and negotiations will be crucial, encompassing all stakeholders. Such an approach is essential for the industry to navigate its current challenges and thrive in the future by adapting to inevitable market adjustments and fostering equitable solutions for all involved. This holistic strategy underscores the critical need for the entertainment sector to prioritise long-term sustainability and inclusivity over immediate gains, ensuring its resilience and prosperity in the years to come.


With the above in mind, several theoretical lenses can explore the prolonged impact of the Hollywood strikes on the UK film industry and the sluggish pace of recovery. These considerations help explain why the industry has not bounced back as quickly as one might have hoped:


  • Hollywood Writing Off the 2023-24 Tax Year: One strategy for companies facing uncertain times is to write off a fiscal year, accept that the year will not be profitable, and minimise operations to reduce losses. This approach allows them to reset financially and strategically for the next fiscal period. For Hollywood, facing extended strikes and disruptions, writing off the 2023-24 tax year could be a strategic move to regroup and plan for a more stable future. This decision would directly impact the UK film industry by delaying recovery until at least April this year.

  • New Wave of Strikes and Production Relocation: The anticipation of further strikes from the Teamsters and IATSE means Hollywood studios are hesitating to start local productions, fearing new disruptions. Instead, they are likely looking to relocate productions to regions perceived as more stable or less likely to be affected by US-based labour disputes. This relocation would benefit the UK film industry if productions are moved there. However, the 'short-term' nature of these strikes and labour actions might also lead studios to move productions abroad only for the short term - approximately 12-18 months.

  • Hollywood's Strategic Culling and Reorganisation: Strikes often force companies to re-evaluate their operations and costs. Hollywood is no exception, using these periods to conduct strategic culling—cutting projects, operations, and staff deemed non-essential or not cost-effective. This period of reorganisation means that even as strikes conclude, not all operations have immediately restarted. The industry is emerging leaner, with fewer, more focused projects that do not necessarily translate to a quick rebound demand for UK film industry services.

  • Streaming Services' Financial Realignment: The pre-strike era saw streaming giants like Netflix and Disney+ in a frenzied competition to dominate the market, leading to massive content production and spending. The strikes have allowed these companies to pause and reassess their strategies. They will now emerge from this period with a more conservative approach to spending and production, focusing on sustainability rather than rapid expansion and quality rather than quantity. This realignment will mean fewer opportunities for large-scale production in the UK, although the region could still benefit - for the short-term - from whatever reduced production level continues in Hollywood itself.

  • Global Industry Contraction and Its Impact on the UK: The broader question of how much the Hollywood film and streaming industry will shrink is significant. Estimates of a contraction between 33-66% reflect the potential scale of the impact, though it's hoped the UK will fare better due to its established infrastructure and talent pool. However, any resurgence in the UK film industry could be temporary. Once Hollywood regains its footing, there's a risk that work will return to the US, leading to a cyclical pattern of boom and bust for the UK industry.


In summary, while there's potential for short-term gains in the UK film industry due to the next phase of possible Hollywood strikes, several factors suggest that the path to recovery could be complex and fraught with new challenges. The global nature of the film industry means that shifts in one region can have cascading effects elsewhere, with the UK industry needing to navigate these turbulent waters carefully.

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