Force Majeure and Studio Talent Service Contracts

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Force Majeure and Studio Talent Service Contracts

Apr 23, 2020

The following is a case study in our series about force majeure. For background, please see Force Majeure, Impossibility and Triggering Events.

Talent service contracts are another type of contract potentially impacted by coronavirus; one individual with whom studios contract with for services is the showrunner. With production largely at a halt during quarantine, some showrunners have found their contracts being cut short through the exercise of the force majeure clause.

Just this week, Marvel cut short two showrunner contracts. While no overall deals have been suspended or terminated at other Disney controlled studios, these cuts signal the first of potentially many talent deals to be axed in the name of COVID-19. Further, the termination of these two deals serves as a signal to many industry players that could follow suit.

One big question impacting the potential suspension or termination of individual talent contracts is whether the project in question can be picked back up post-quarantine, or whether the project will likely be scrapped altogether. If the project is likely to continue once production resumes, then, while studios may choose to exercise the force majeure clause for the time being, the contracts involved will likely be suspended rather than terminated. On the other hand, if the project at issue is likely to be scrapped, then studios may increasingly choose to exercise force majeure clauses as a way to tighten their belts in a time of economic uncertainty.

Based in Santa Monica, California, Pfeiffer Law Corp limits its practice to entertainment law.

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