It’s already been a tough year for movie theaters, with the North American box office down about 20 percent from last year. And that was when actors could promote their films.
With SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, on strike since Friday, its 160,000 members are officially banned not only from acting in projects involving the major Hollywood studios but also from engaging in any promotional efforts for movies and television shows that have already been made. completed
That means no appearances, either online or in person, including at the upcoming Comic-Con International in San Diego, many of the fall film festivals and any movie premieres or TV promotional events. At the beginning of this week, SAG-AFTRA officials called conferences with the main agencies and publicists of Hollywood to explain the strike rules for the production and the promotion of upcoming projects. And on Thursday, after announcing the strike, the union published its rules for its membership.
“It’s going to be expensive because the only other way to make up for the lack of publicity is to buy more buzz,” said Terry Press, a top Hollywood businessman. “When you don’t have any kind of publicity, which is to a certain extent free, you have to try to compensate for that noise. Ultimately, that’s expensive, especially in the summer, where there’s very little advertising you can buy that will catch large groups of people.”
It will also be awkward. That was evident even before the actors’ union announced on Thursday that it had approved a strike. A few hours earlier, Christopher Nolan’s star-studded “Oppenheimer” premiered in London.
“Oppenheimer” is one of the most anticipated films of the summer, movie-struggling theater owners have pointed to – along with Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and the latest chapter of “Mission: Impossible” with Tom Cruise – as one that could pump some life in. a struggling business.
But at the premiere at the Odeon Theater in Leicester Square, it was clear that the strike would have an impact. First it was moved up an hour, so that the cast full of bold names – including Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh and Cillian Murphy – could walk the red carpet. Then they all left before the screening started, in solidarity with the union.
“They’re going to write their picket signs,” Mr Nolan joked to the crowd of 800 people.
Universal Pictures said it will still hold its New York premiere of “Oppenheimer” on Monday, but none of the actors will attend.
The lack of buzz premieres and the usual round of promotion for films is troubling for a film industry that had hoped that business would increase in the second half of the year.
The strike also affects the fall film festival circuit, which relies on actors appearing in person to promote their prestigious films heading into awards season. “The whole festival circuit, those films are nothing but publicity driven,” said Ms. Press.
Usually actors looking for Oscar gold make a pilgrimage to Italy for the Venice International Film Festival at the end of August, then go to Colorado for the Telluride Film Festival and then Canada for the Toronto International Film Festival — the three early stops on the campaign trail.
“The grammar of releasing those films requires the festival circuit,” Ms. Press said. “That’s when I think you’re going to start having serious consequences.”
Television is also affected. Despite the Emmy nominations announced on Wednesday, none of the actors nominated will be able to promote their work. Asked how the awards show – which is scheduled for September but is likely to be postponed if the walkout is extended – will be affected by the strike, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief negotiator, said: “Our strike rules will not allow any form of promotion for television series, or streaming series that were produced under those contracts. My expectation is that it will end any actor participation in Emmy campaigning.”