Hollywood strikes bring Massachusetts' film industry to a standstill

Actors, writers and supporters picket outside NBCUniversal at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York on Tuesday. (Ted Shaffrey/AP)
Actors, writers and supporters picket outside NBCUniversal at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York on Tuesday. (Ted Shaffrey/AP)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

Hollywood may be thousands of miles away from Massachusetts, but the effects of the dual strikes by TV and movie writers and actors are being felt coast to coast:

There were more than 30 major productions in Massachusetts last year, and over 325 since the state enacted a (somewhat controversial) tax credit for film productions in 2006. But as WBUR’s Zeninjor Enwemeka reports, the two strikes — which are being waged for better pay and regulations on the use of AI — have brought Massachusetts’ relatively large film industry to a virtual standstill.

  • Off-screen: Gary Crossen, the general manager of New England Studios, says there’s nothing going on at the Devens studio right now. According to Crossen, there was a little filmmaking proceeding through the writers strike, which began on May 2. But he said the SAG-AFTRA strike, which started last week, “shut the entire industry down.” (A few low-budget films do remain in production.) It also affects non-unionized workers and local businesses that benefit from large productions, like lumber companies.
  • On-screen: NPR reports the production halt — which some industry insiders expect to continue until at least September — is delaying future seasons of popular shows like “Severance,” “Abbott Elementary,” “Euphoria,” “The Last of Us,” “Cobra Kai” and “Stranger Things” — and even canceled an Apple TV+ adaptation of Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 sci-fi film “Metropolis.”
  • The mood: Crossen says his studio is keeping staff on payroll and plans to wait things out — though he may have to delay or cancel projects lined up this fall if the strikes continue. “I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “I think that we just have to be patient.”
  • Stay tuned: The strikes get more visible on the local front today. The New England chapter of SAG-AFTRA — which has 4,000 members — is planning a Boston Common rally at 4 p.m. [Editor’s note: Many WBUR journalists are members of SAG-AFTRA, but are covered under a different contract from the Hollywood actors.]
  • Until then: Listen to this Pop Culture Happy Hour episode breaking down the deep divides underpinning the two strikes.
  • Flashback: Here are three lessons past Hollywood strikes can teach us about the current moment.

Some of the largest public library systems in the country — like Boston and New York — have gotten rid of late fees in the name of equity. Add Brookline to the list (as long as your book isn’t super late).

  • The deets: The Public Library of Brookline is not only eliminating daily late fees for most overdue books, DVDs, audiobooks and other materials — but it’s also waiving all existing fines patrons may have already accrued so they can start fresh.
  • Why? As library director Amanda Hirst told WBUR’s Amy Sokolow, the policy aims to ensure financial penalties don’t preclude lower-income residents from accessing its resources and services: “They’re unable to bring their fines down so that they can check out items again and then we just lose them as a patron.” Hirst also said the library only collected $10,000 a year in fines.
  • The exceptions: You’ll still get charged for items that are damaged or “lost,” which means more than four weeks overdue.

The Massachusetts State House will remain closed today after an apparent electrical fire forced government officials and journalists alike to evacuate the building Tuesday afternoon. While the fire was confined to the basement, investigators say they are keeping the building closed due to concerns over elevated carbon monoxide levels.

Also closed today: All beaches on Plum Island. Newburyport officials say the beaches are closed for swimming after recent testing found high levels of bacteria in the water. They plan to test again today and tomorrow, and reopen the beaches if bacteria levels drop — but it will likely take at least a day to get those results.

  • Go deeper: There are currently over 60 beaches in Massachusetts closed due to bacteria, according to the state’s website. WBUR’s Ally Jarmanning explains why these closures often happen after heavy rain.

Want a piece of the Pour House? The now-closed Back Bay bar is putting vintage signs, tables and other memorabilia up for public auction today at 11 a.m. (Sticky floors not included, for better or worse.) You can bid online and scroll through all the photos here.

P.S.— Fans of Turtle Swamp Brewing have one month left to enjoy its beers. After six years in operation, Turtle Swamp announced yesterday they will permanently close their Jamaica Plain-based taproom and production facility after a final goodbye on Aug. 19.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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