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Levine 23 streaming premieres a threat to Hollywood workers

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After three release delays spanning nearly a year, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the sci-fi epic, “Dune,” finally opened its doors last weekend. The general anticipation among moviegoers was very high for the film that promised to make the famous impossible taskto bring Frank Herberts’ classic book to the screen. With a cast straight out of FilmTok and Villeneuve floatingplans for a sequel even before the film’s release, Dune was virtually a guaranteed cultural success.

Now the movie has been released with a caveat. The production studio behind the project, Warner Brothers, has scheduled all of its 2021 programming to be shown simultaneously in theaters and on its streaming site, HBO Max. In an attempt to offset underperforming box office sales, production giants like Disney have popularized the strategy of releasing films on streaming services alongside theatrical releases to capitalize on the high monthly fees. streaming. In the discourse surrounding these decisions, the scruples that take center stage revolve around how theaters will suffer and, therefore, the magic of the cinematic experience will be lost. But these conversations often forget that the increase in streaming movie premieres also keeps studios going. feat their workers.

Take the profile of Scarlett Johansson trialagainst Disney, for example. The actor claimed the studio broke its Black Widow contract by releasing the film simultaneously in theaters and on Disney + in an effort to promote the streaming platform. This essentially ensured that the film would generate less box office profit, reducing the bonuses that the studio must contractually pay Johansson.

Johansson is very wealthy, but his costume is emblematic of the neglect of workers at all levels of the industry. If an actress who was the bachelor highest paid actress in 2019 is vulnerable to this type of exploitation, imagine the difficulty of workers without cultural and capital weight to negotiate their exit. The debacle ended with an undisclosed settlement, failing to have the ripple effect of the increased worker protections some were expecting. Instead, the episode denied that the wealth of such a large studio essentially provides a blank check for producers and executives to mistreat their workers in their own way.

The streaming boom has studios streaming more content than ever before, often requiring 12-18 hours working days crew members without guaranteed weekend breaks. And just like in the Johanssons costume, there is a critical loss of compensation. Shows that air often continue to earn past their premiere date thanks to residue, the fees that channels pay to show reruns. These fees fund the health and retirement plans of workers below the line, while directors and actors receive a check without hesitation. Not only do shows produced for streaming services produce less residue, but they also limit pension benefits due to their classification as a new medium.

The Hollywood workforce is speaking out on streaming which pushes them to breaking point. According to a list of grievancesof the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees, which recently threatened the biggest strike in Hollywood history to protest grueling working hours, abuse on the set and low wages. And, most importantly, Hollywood crew members who lack Johansson’s cultural and financial influence must resort to collective action. Strikes like these are one of their only recourse to unfair working conditions.

And what demand does this glut of streaming releases really answer? What do I get from watching Timothe Chalamet ride a sandworm on a 13 inch laptop screen? WarnerMedias CEO Jason Kilar said, “If we start our days and end our days with a customer focus, we are going to lead the industry. But this corporate messaging tries to sell a sort of convenience that no one has ever asked for, betraying a philosophy that reduces film production and distribution to a simple matter of volume. It is no longer even claimed that studios like Warner and Disney view cinema as an inherently experiential art form. I can’t help but agree with Denis Villeneuve repudiationof Warner Brothers’ decision to make Dune on HBO Max: there is absolutely no love for movies, or for audiences here. For these studios, films are undeniably products, through and through.

When it comes to products, convenience reigns supreme. Streaming has ushered in such a total and unprecedented level of ease of consumption that, just like with Amazon Prime Delivery, we will become dependent on this instantaneous consumption. And the usual fallout from work will inevitably follow: unions crushed, worker health and safety compromised, and product quality diminished in this case, our films. In this hostile climate at work, it is imperative that any organized action be greeted with urgency and support. The majority of Hollywood’s workforce already has grueling and thankless jobs. For their sake, leave the sand worms for the big screen.

Isabella Levine 23 can be contacted at [email protected] Please send responses to this notice to [email protected] and other op-eds to [email protected]

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