New Media and Tours Among Topics for Upcoming AEA and Broadway League Negotiations

News   New Media and Tours Among Topics for Upcoming AEA and Broadway League Negotiations Actors' Equity Association and The Broadway League will begin negotiating a new production contract for Broadway show folk April 18.

A statement from AEA says that talks are expected to be "collegial," and negotiations should be settled by June 29, the expiration date of the current four-year contract with the Broadway League.

"It's not going to be a repeat of November," Maria Somma, a spokesperson for AEAS said, referring to the Broadway stagehands negotiations with the League that resulted in a 19-day strike during Broadway's lucrative holiday season.

In a statement, Broadway League executive director Charlotte St. Martin said, "Actors and producers enjoy a very special bond. The collaborative nature of this relationship is of fundamental importance to our industry. We anticipate that the Equity talks will proceed with both sides seeking to forge a timely and mutually beneficial agreement – one that will encourage the success of individual productions and the future."

Topics of discussion will include overall compensation packages and touring contracts, a key sticking point in the 2004 meetings. The 2004 negotiations, which dealt directly with the proliferation of non-Equity tours, resulted in the creation of "experimental touring packages" or tiered contracts.

These special agreements, available only to musicals with a company of 40 or more (including crew), have been quite successful, according to AEA spokesperson Somma. While not available to mega-hits like Jersey Boys or Wicked, the agreement is extended only to productions that may not be a bankable box-office smash. With productions of The Light in the Piazza taking to the road on a tiered Equity contract, AEA has gained ground in keeping more Equity tours across the country. Somma commented that AEA expects that the two parties will "slightly alter the contract language, based on now-practical experience."

Equity now has over 17 national tours in markets across the country. This eases the burden on AEA's troubled healthcare benefits by ensuring that more money is going into the fund. The increase in non-Equity national tours put a serious dent in AEA's healthcare funding, as less Equity tours meant less members paying into the healthcare system.

Also brought to the table will be promotion and advertising of Broadway productions. As with SAG's recent negotiations, Actors' Equity is keen on detailing the use of new media for Broadway and how its members are compensated. On that end, Somma explains, "Broadway is a hand-crafted collaborative industry in ways that other industries are not. We're going to figure out a strong middle ground."

The slowing American economy has also increased the need for Broadway producers to advertise and promote their shows. Equity intends to work with the League to find ways to promote Broadway and enhance publicity without further infringement on actors' personal time.

Additional talking points for the April 18 meeting include safety in the ever-evolving technologically advanced Broadway work environment.

Because AEA and the League dealt with rather large issues in previous negotiations — including healthcare in 2000 and touring contracts in 2004 — Somma anticipates a "relatively simple negotiation" process this time around.