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Hollywood actors walk out over pay & AI worries

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Hollywood actors have announced they will join a strike by screenwriters in the industry’s biggest shutdown for more than 60 years.
Some 160,000 performers will stop work at midnight in Los Angeles, bringing to a halt most US film and TV productions.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) wants streaming giants to agree to a fairer split of profits and better working conditions.

It also wants to protect actors from being usurped by digital replicas.

The union is seeking guarantees that artificial intelligence (AI) and computer-generated faces and voices will not be used to replace actors.

While the strike lasts, actors cannot appear in films or even promote movies that they have already made.

As a result, stars Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt left the premiere of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer in London on Thursday night as the strike was declared.

The film’s director, Christopher Nolan, told the cinema audience that they were “off to write their picket signs”, adding that he supported them in their struggle.

Several actors took to Instagram to voice their support for the strike, including Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk, Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon and Hollywood veteran Jamie Lee Curtis.

Picketing will begin on Friday morning outside the California headquarters of Netflix, before moving on to Paramount, Warner Bros and Disney.

To address concerns about the use of AI, the big studios have offered what they call a “ground-breaking proposal” that would protect the digital likeness of actors and require their consent when digital replicas are used in performances, or alterations are made.

But the union rejected the offer, made by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

The SAG’s national executive director and chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, said it was unacceptable.

“They propose that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan of their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity,” he said. “If you think that’s a ground-breaking proposal, I suggest you think again.”

For films in production, the strike means a large portion of work will become impossible. Even in cases in which filming has already been completed, actors will be unavailable for re-shoots and other essential elements of the filmmaking process.

TV shows that are still being filmed will also largely have to stop, although in some cases side deals could be struck between performers and producers to allow work to continue.

Top Hollywood stars will not be able to attend events to promote new and upcoming releases. Events including the Emmys and Comic-Con may be rescheduled or scaled back.

The AMPTP said the strike was “certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life”.

“The union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry,” its statement added.

The union is officially known as the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or SAG-AFTRA.

Another of its demands of the streaming services is that actors should receive greater base pay and residuals – meaning payments made to actors from repeats of films and programmes they’ve starred in.

The strike includes tens of thousands of actors who receive significantly less pay for minor parts than their A-list colleagues.

“In the old model, they get residuals based on success,” Kim Masters, the editor-in-chief of the Hollywood Reporter, told the BBC. “In the new model, they don’t get to find out what’s going on behind the scenes, because the streamers don’t share.”

Fran Drescher, SAG’s president, said the strike came at a “very seminal moment” for actors in the industry.

“What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labour,” she said, “when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority, and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run.”

A separate strike by the 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America demanding better pay and working conditions has been going since 2 May.

Some writers have turned to projects that are not covered by the contract between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The “double strike” by both unions is the first since 1960, when the SAG was led by actor Ronald Reagan, long before he entered politics and became US president. The last strike by actors took place in 1980.

peaking during a gathering of industry leaders at an Idaho resort ahead of the SAG’s announcement on Thursday, Disney chief executive Bob Iger said the demands of both actors and writers were impractical and damaging to an industry still recovering from the pandemic.

“It’s very disturbing to me,” Mr Iger said. “This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption.”

A third union, the Directors Guild of America, successfully negotiated a contract in June and will not participate.

(BBC News)

Entertainment

Alka Yagnik diagnosed with “rare sensory hearing loss

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Veteran Bollywood singer Alka Yagnik, who revealed that she has been diagnosed with a “rare sensory hearing loss” due to a viral attack, has suffered a type of hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear or the nerve pathways that transmit sound from the ear to the brain.

According to Dr Manish Munjal, Vice Chairman, ENT, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, sudden sensory hearing loss is a medical emergency as it can become irreversible if not aggressively treated in 48-72 hours.

“The centre of the problem is the inner ear organ called Cochlea, where it happens due to damage to the hair cells,” Munjal told IANS on Tuesday.

The causes may range from simple viruses like Herpes, Varicella, and Mumps or sudden loud exposure to noise levels above 85 decibel (dB).

Munjal also mentioned that this disorder may also result from more serious causes like painkiller overdose, chemotherapy, tumour compression, meningitis and stroke.

“The need of the hour is usually to rush to an ENT specialist to get the necessary ear examination done as well as get an audiometry test. Once diagnosed, the treatment may require a cocktail of antivirals, oral and intratympanic steroids, as well as rest from noisy environments,” he stated.

According to the doctor, once the treatment is initiated, the chances of recovery are usually 70 per cent and above.

The disorder affects only 1 per cent in bilateral ears as compared to single ear, Munjal noted.

(IANS)

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Senaka Batagoda further restrained from singing 7 songs

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The Colombo Commercial High Court has further extended a court order preventing popular singer – Senaka Batagoda from singing 07 songs.

The order was issued after the relevant case was taken up again yesterday (June 18).

The seven songs which was restrained under the enjoining order are “Api Kavuruda”, “Api Senasille”, “Alu Yata Gini”, “Rastha”, “Heena Walata Panak Thiyenawa”, “Senasuma” and “Hodama de”.

The case is over a complaint filed under the Intellectual Property Act by musician Janath Kulathilake who was the combined lyrics, melody and music composer of those seven songs sung by Senaka Batagoda.

The case will be taken up again on August 23.

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Court restrains Senaka Batagoda from singing 7 songs

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Pixar’s Inside Out 2 sees record opening weekend

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Pixar’s Inside Out 2 has broken box office records over the weekend as it brought in an estimated $295m (£232.6m) around the world.

That makes it the strongest global opening by an animated film of all time, parent company Disney said.

In North America, ticket sales hit about $155m, dethroning Dune: Part Two as the holder of this year’s top box office opening weekend.

It marks a big win for cinemas, which have seen lacklustre box office takings for some new movies this year.

Inside Out 2’s first weekend was much stronger than the original movie, which brought in $90m in its opening weekend before going on to gross $858m worldwide.

It was the second-best opening for the company in the North American market, just behind the 2018 release of The Incredibles 2.

The blockbuster opening weekend is a boost for Pixar after relatively weak opening performances from some of its recent releases.

Inside Out 2 is the first sequel of the 2015 Oscar-winning hit, which focused on the emotions of a young girl called Riley.

While the original was about feelings like joy, fear and anger the latest instalment tackles issues such as envy and anxiety.

Inside Out 2’s successful opening is a bright spot in what has so far been a slow start to summer for film companies.

A large part of annual ticket sales usually take place in the period from the first weekend in May to the start of September.

However, strikes by actors and screenwriters last year has meant that fewer films were ready for release this year.

The industry has also had to contend with streaming services for both content and customers.

The number of cinema tickets sold in North America so far this year is down by almost a quarter compared to the same period in 2023, according to media market research company Comscore.

(BBC News)

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