History of Hollywood Writers' Strikes
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film A Brief History of the Hollywood Writers’ Strikes

A Brief History of the Hollywood Writers’ Strikes

History of Hollywood Writers' Strikes

The ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, which brought Hollywood to an abrupt halt in May, comes at a once-in-a-generation turning point for the entertainment industry.

A decade of changing viewing habits has resulted in a consumer base that wants to watch more content, but pay less for it, and do it mostly on their own schedules without leaving their homes. Hollywood’s pivot to streaming created a short-lived gold rush as legacy brands attempted to build these subscriber bases with massive amounts of content. But the past year has seen studios and networks slowly come to a collective realization that their business model isn’t viable as it is.

The artists who actually Do the content fueling the Streaming Wars faces an equally frustrating situation. Streaming may have created more jobs in the short term, but it has eroded the residuals that once formed the bedrock of a writer’s income. Screenwriters work more, earn less, and are asked to come to terms with the idea that their work may be removed from streaming circulation at any time for any reason. The WGA went on strike with the intention not only of securing more resources for its members, but also of achieving a new understanding of the ways in which studios and artists can coexist in this unfamiliar and tense era.

In some ways, the current situation is unprecedented. But the story of Hollywood writers striking out when technological innovations threaten their established sources of income is not new. The WGA has gone on strike eight times since its founding in 1933, most recently in 2007. Many of the strikes were related to emerging technologies that threatened to fundamentally alter the way Hollywood delivers entertainment – and were eventually resolved once the guild felt that the writers had been assured an adequately sized slice of the new pie.

Anyone seeking clarity on the current ambiguity facing Hollywood would do well to study the history of the writers’ strikes. While the profitability of streaming (or lack thereof) and AI are unique issues of the 21st century, many of the previous strikes have played out in similar ways. Read on for a chronological timeline of the WGA’s strikes, including how Hollywood fixed the first seven work stoppages, alongside photos of ongoing action still taking place in New York and Los Angeles.

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