This year’s Tony Awards ceremony, which has been in doubt since Hollywood screenwriters went on strike earlier this month, will go ahead as scheduled in a modified form after the writers’ union said Monday night that it does not picket the show.
“Just as they stand with us, we stand with our fellow Broadway workers affected by our strike,” the Writers Guild of America, which represents screenwriters, said in a statement late Monday.
An interruption could be damaging to Broadway, which sees the televised ceremony as a prime marketing opportunity, especially now, when audiences have yet to return to prepandemic levels. Several nominated shows are running at a loss, holding on to the hope that a Tony win — or even broadcast exposure — might boost sales.
The union clarified that the broadcast, scheduled to air on CBS on June 11, will be different from past ceremonies. But the union did not elaborate on what those differences were, and Tony Awards administrators had no immediate comment. The broadcast is expected to still feature awards honoring the best plays and musicals of the 2022-23 Broadway season, but it’s unclear how the musical numbers, which are a key for many shows, will be affected.
“Tony Awards Productions (a joint venture of the Broadway League and the American Theater Wing) has contacted us that they are changing this year’s show to conform to specific requests from the WGA, and therefore the WGA will not- picket the show,” the union said in a statement. “The responsibility for making changes to the 2023 Tony Awards format rests squarely on the shoulders of Paramount/CBS and their allies. They continue to refuse to negotiate a fair contract for the writers represented by the WGA”
Although the Tony Awards aren’t a big ratings draw compared to other awards shows, the televised ceremony is a critical marketing opportunity for the theater industry, which still draws audiences below the numbers. of the prepandemic.
It became clear soon after the screenwriters went on strike that labor disruption could affect the Tony Awards, as the awards ceremony is televised (by CBS) and live-streamed (by Paramount+) and usually features a script written by screenwriters .
Broadway is a heavily unionized industry, and unionized theater workers such as actors and musicians will not participate in an awards ceremony that another union is protesting. Tony Awards administrators, aware of those concerns, asked the WGA for a waiver that would allow its writers to work on the show, given the theater industry’s dire straits; on Friday, the WGA denied that request, and on Monday night it reiterated that denial, saying the guild “will not negotiate an interim agreement or a waiver for the Tony Awards.”
But Tony Awards administrators did not give up, and asked the guild if, even without a waiver to allow screenwriters to work on the show, it would allow the broadcast to continue without writers as long as it met certain conditions.
Prominent theater artists working on Broadway and allied with the writers guild also spoke on behalf of the Tonys, arguing that forcing the airing would be devastating to the art form and the many artists it employs. A combination of lobbying efforts and the new conditions — which were not specified by Broadway officials or union officials — appeared to have prompted the guild to say Monday night that it would not picket the broadcast.
The striking screenwriters argued that their wages have stagnated and working conditions have worsened despite the fact that television production has exploded over the past decade. Negotiations between the major Hollywood studios – represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers – and the WGA broke down three weeks ago. About 11,500 writers have gone on strike since May 2.
For the past two weeks, writers have assembled picket lines outside major studios in Los Angeles and production sound stages in New York. But writers have also walked away, with some picketing outside productions as far away as Maplewood, NJ, Chicago and Philadelphia.
The threat of demonstrations forced Netflix to cancel a major in-person showcase for advertisers, scheduled for Wednesday, and switch to a virtual format instead. The company also canceled an appearance for Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s co-chief executive, at the PEN America Literary Gala at the Museum of Natural History on Thursday, where he was scheduled to be honored with the longtime “Saturday Night Live” executive producer. who is Lorne Michaels.