With summer movie season at its midpoint, Hollywood typically begins to turn its gaze to the fall, when a trio of major film festivals serve as the unofficial kickoff to Oscar season. Seven of the last 10 best picture winners made their fall festival debuts, coming out of the gate with standing ovations and critical acclaim that helped propel them through the month-long awards show gauntlet.

But now that SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America are both on strike, could a protracted battle between the unions and the studios cause those fall launch pads to derail?

Although the writers’ strike, which began on May 2, did not have much of an impact on the Cannes Film Festival that month, the actors’ strike that began on Friday may significantly reshape upcoming festivals in Venice, Telluride, Cologne and Toronto. . That’s because SAG-AFTRA prohibits members from promoting any film while the strike is ongoing, an across-the-board ban that includes interviews, photo calls and red carpet duties. Without those appearances, festivals will be stripped of the star power that is invaluable in elevating a film.

The first event likely to be affected is the Venice Film Festival, which begins its 80th edition on August 30 with the premiere of the sexy tennis comedy “Challengers”, starring Zendaya. Venice has recently competed with Cannes for glamor and headlines, so the loss of famous actors would be a big blow. Almost all the main moments in Venice last year were star-driven, from the viral clip of Brendan Fraser crying after the premiere of “The Whale” to the social media scrutiny of Harry Styles and Chris Pine when they appeared to clash while promoting “Don’t Worry Darling.” (Though if there was a strike, Florence Pugh, the star, would have a better excuse to infamously skip that film’s press conference.)

The festival will announce its full lineup on July 25, and buzz suggests it could include highly anticipated films like Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic, “Maestro”; Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla,” about the relationship between Elvis Presley and his wife, Priscilla; and “The Killer,” a David Fincher thriller starring Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton. Those authors are at least famous enough to pick up some of the publicity slack, though Cooper could be in a bind as director and star of “Maestro,” since any press he does could be seen as violating SAG’s ban.

The Telluride Film Festival, which takes place from September 1 to 4 and has shot to the spotlight the likes of “Lady Bird” and “Moonlight”, should be less affected by the absence of stars: That intimate Colorado gathering is a favorite of celebrity attendees because they don’t need to take photos or media flashes and can instead grind like regular people.

But the Toronto International Film Festival, starting Sept. 7, is a whimsical 10-day affair filled with red carpets, portrait studios and press junkets, all of which will shrink significantly if actors are banned from attending. Canadian businesses already are preparing to hit their bottom if the festival contracts. Organizers issued a statement of concern last week: “The impact of this strike on the industry and events like ours cannot be denied. We will continue planning for this year’s festival with the hope of a quick resolution in the coming weeks.”

There is a solution for actors to participate in festivals, but it is slim: Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the SAG-AFTRA negotiator, said that “truly independent” films able to secure temporary agreements with the guild could allow their stars to do media. duties However, that’s a condition more likely to save the indie-focused Sundance Film Festival in January rather than fall festivals, where the biggest titles tend to come from major studios. And if the SAG strike continues into January, it will be more than just festivals that feel the pinch.

A month-long strike would hit the awards season ecosystem with its toughest test since Covid: If stars can’t attend ceremonies, could the events be held at all? (At least when these things were on Zoom, the nominated stars showed up.) Post-pandemic, prestige films need all the help they can get at the box office. If they can’t be sustained by awards talk and media-happy movie stars, studios could choose to move some more vulnerable year-end titles to 2024.

That could give an awards-season advantage to streamers like Netflix, which don’t have to factor the box office into decisions about what to debut or delay. And films that have already had a great cultural moment – such as “Past Lives” by A24, an artistic success of June, or “Killers of the Flower Moon” by Martin Scorsese, which will be published by Apple in October but received an important premiere. at Cannes in May — will be better positioned to thrive this awards season than films that may not have full-fledged press tours.

Will an agreement in this bitter battle be reached in time to save the awards season? Even if both sides can compromise before the televised ceremonies begin, one change will likely still be felt: Don’t expect the usual list of studio executives to be so effusively thanked in acceptance speeches.

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