Time is apparently running short to extend the life of “The Simpsons.”
Negotiations between producer 20th Century Fox TV and the principal cast have reached the point that, according to The Wrap, the studio has issued an ultimatum: Voice actors Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer have to respond to 20th’s demands by noon Friday (Oct. 7) if the show is to continue past this season.
The studio wants the actors to cut their salaries by about 45 percent, from about $440,000 per episode apiece to $250,000 per episode. It’s already rejected an offer from the cast to take pay cuts of 30 percent in exchange for a small piece of the show’s “back-end” profits — syndication, DVD sales, merchandising and the like.
Meanwhile, Variety reports that several top-level “Simpsons” producers have offered to cut their own salaries in an effort to keep the series going beyond this season. That likely wouldn’t be enough to cut costs as much as 20th Century Fox wants to, but it helps.
The actors argue that the show has been enormously profitable over its record-breaking 23-year run, and they deserve a little piece of future profits. They commissioned a report showing that “The Simpsons” has generated $3.95 billion in revenue since it debuted and cost $3.07 billion to produce — profits of $880 million. The study also says the show could make as much as $2 billion from continued syndication and home-video sales after its original run ends, according to The Wrap.
Cast members have standard residual clauses in their contracts, but they don’t receive any of the back-end profits they’ve helped generate over the past 20-plus years.
Part of the reason for the studio setting a Friday deadline is if this season does turn out to be the last for “The Simpsons,” a series finale script would need to be written pretty soon in order to have the animation finished in time to air it in May.