THIS should have been a great summer for Hollywood. The Barbenheimer phenomenon has seen ticket sales for the two movies top the $2 billion mark (which in sterling is a less sexy but still substantial £1.569bn). Both Barbie and Oppenheimer have dominated the cultural conversation since their release and led to hopes that their success might prompt a new wave of authored films rather than the franchise movies that have been the norm for so long now.

Unfortunately, the only people not talking about Barbenheimer are the people behind them, of course. That’s because the stars of the movie are currently on strike alongside their SAG-AFTRA union colleagues. The strike has now passed 40 days, while the concurrent strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has been going for more than 100. The issues are pay, residuals (the money actors receive from repeats of their work) and rights, particularly in regard to the increasing use of AI.

It’s not just a case of millionaire actors wanting more of the cake. The fact is, none of them would have lines to say or people to say them to without supporting staff. And yet some 87 per cent of actors in the union don’t make enough to qualify for health insurance in the United States. By contrast, the pay packets of many Hollywood CEOs have soared. Warner Bros Discovery's CEO David Zaslav earned nearly $500n between 2018 and 2022, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has been playing hardball since the strikes began. One source reportedly told a trade paper: “The end game is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.” That hardly suggests an industry that values its members, does it?

The AMPTP has since distanced itself from the comments, but then how could it not?

Meanwhile Netflix and Warner Bros Discovery have been talking about the money they have saved in operating costs since the strikes began.

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But the strike is beginning to hit home. Film shoots, including the next Mission Impossible film and Deadpool 3, are being delayed, release dates pushed back (Luca Guadagnino’s tennis drama Challengers, starring Zendaya, won’t see the light of day until 2024 now) and some TV shows, including the second series of A League of Their Own, have already been cancelled.

And without actors to promote them new releases are not doing as well as hoped. Recent films such as Strays and Blue Beetle have underperformed and The Hollywood Reporter has estimated that the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem took a possible 15% hit.

Whether this will have an impact on the studios remains to be seen. It’s worth recalling that last year David Zaslav simply cancelled the release of the Batgirl movie as a tax write-down. This is a multi-billion dollar industry. The WGA estimates that it would cost the studios $500m to meet their demands - about 0.5% of studio revenue last year. Or the cost of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s yacht.

In the short term the studios have material in the can, but nobody to promote it. The danger for them is if the strike drags on. At some point the cupboard may be bare. To get to that point, of course, a lot of union members - writers and actors - will have had to suffer financially.

But let’s go back to Barbenheimer for a moment. The consensus is that Barbie and Oppenheimer represent a return to auteur cinema on a global scale; that their success is the result of the creative abilities of Christopher Nolan on Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig on Barbie. All true. But even the hokiest franchise movie started off with one or two people in a room coming up with an idea. Film and TV wouldn't exist without them.

Contemporary Hollywood is in business because at various points in the last century someone - maybe Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, or JK Rowling, or Agatha Christie (there’s another Poirot movie, A Haunting in Venice, out next month) - put something down on paper.

You can’t write off a movie for tax reasons unless someone has written and performed it in the first place. Studio bosses would do well to remember that.