(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/19; Actors’ Equity and SAG-AFTRA’s agreement clears the way for more entertainment during the pandemic winter; via Pam Green.)
Two major entertainment industry unions have settled an internecine dispute over streaming theater, reaching an agreement that should make it easier for professional theaters around the country to film plays and musicals for broadcast during the coronavirus pandemic.
The dispute centered on a distinctly pandemic-era question: As theaters that have been shut down by the outbreak try to stream productions, should their contracts fall to the union that represents people who work in theater, or the one that represents film and television workers?
After a sometimes-bitter dispute, the Actors’ Equity Association, which represents 51,000 stage actors and state managers, and SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 people who work primarily in film and television, announced the agreement Thursday evening.
“This is a great day,” Kate Shindle, the Equity president, said in an interview Thursday. “This gives people who make theater the ability to innovate in ways that they need in order to survive.”
Shindle said she was hopeful that the agreement will make it possible for theaters to stream more work for the duration of the pandemic. “We want this work to happen,” she said.
Under the agreement, which is tentatively scheduled to last until Dec. 31, 2021, the two unions agreed that Equity will cover work recorded for digital distribution that replaces, or supplements, a live audience.
There are many restrictions — the Equity-covered work is supposed to be distributed to ticketholders or subscribers, and not broadcast to the general public. The audience, over the course of the streaming run, must not exceed twice the theater’s seating capacity over that time period, or three times the capacity for theaters with fewer than 350 seats.