We are in Week 6 of the mass Hollywood production shutdown over the coronavirus pandemic. There has been little movement on the surface over the past couple of weeks, since the first major film and TV company, Disney, announced pay cuts and furloughs.
There have been isolated moves — ViacomCBS last week let go of contract workers, indie production companies like Blumhouse and Annapurna laid off a handful of executives and support stuff, while Disney’s Marvel terminated a pair of overall deals. The trickle is soon expected to turn into a flood, as major studios start imposing layoffs and begin suspending or terminating a significant portion of their term deals.
Some of that will be studios cutting short overall pacts that were going to be allowed to lapse at the end of the term. That was the case with Steve Lightfoot and Paul Zbyszewski who had signed overall deals with Marvel Television, the now-defunct division run by Jeph Loeb. The pact moved to Marvel Studios after Marvel TV was shut down at the end of 2019, with the company’s dwindling current series slate also folded into Marvel proper. Lightfoot ran Marvel TV’s Netflix series The Punisher, which was canceled after two seasons, while Zbyszewski runs the division’s last live-action series, the upcoming Hellstrom for Hulu, whose first season is in post-production. The duo’s deal terminations were first reported by THR.
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There are currently no overall pacts that are being suspended or terminated at other Disney TV units, most notable the company’s biggest TV production entity, Disney Television Studios. As we approach the traditional eight-week mark, we will likely see the force majeure clause invoked in a slew of deal terminations all over town.
The 2007-2008 writers strike led to an overall deal bloodbath, with studios terminating pacts en masse. It took years for the overall deal market to return to pre-strike levels of volume and prices. With the financial hit on Hollywood from the COVID-19 pandemic a lot bigger than the impact of a writers strike, we will see if the overall deal cut will be a lot deeper too.
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