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What The Writers Strike Means For The Theatre

December 14, 2007

The movie and TV writers' strike has already cost the industry more than $100 million, according to a Web site operated by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP).

The WGA strike has had a devastating impact on late night ratings in particular. Hardest hit: late night leader The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. According to Nielsen data for the first full month of the strike (Nov. 5-Nov. 30), the NBC flagship -- while still the No. 1 show in the daypart -- suffered a 40% decline among adults 18-49 vs. the same frame a year ago. NBC's Late Night With Conan O'Brien also saw its audience shrink by 36%.

I wonder if the silver screen's loss may be the theatre's gain? As banal reality TV shows replace regular dramas, talk shows and comedies and viewers desert their small screens in droves, perhaps people will get off their asses and seek a little live entertainment. And perhaps those writers will start producing material for the old-fashioned medium again. They may not make as much money as they do churning out network soaps and episodes of The Simpsons, but at least they'll be serving their souls.

Then again, the drop in viewership numbers may not herald any kind of gain for live entertainment. All it might mean is a rise in NetFlix subscriptions in the coming weeks.

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