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No Stars, No Red Carpets: How Hollywood Strikes Could Disrupt the Summer Box Office

Jul 25, 2023
  • Source by Variety
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Major titles set for 2024 could miss their release dates


Warner Bros. / Universal / Paramount



For Tom Cruise, one of the most effective ways to sell tickets to blockbusters like Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible sequels has been recounting the horrors and headaches of performing his own death-defying stunts.


In the lead-up to Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, however, Cruise hasn’t been able to talk up the antics of hanging off a runaway train or jumping out of airplanes on late-night shows due to the ongoing writers strike. And now, as the actors join the picket lines against Hollywood film and TV companies, the realm of promotion for upcoming projects is getting a lot narrower.


According to SAG-AFTRA guidelines, stars aren’t allowed to appear on daytime shows like Good Morning America or Today, attend premieres, participate in interviews for completed work or even post about projects on social media while the strike is in effect. Talent is also unable to go to conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con, which is held at the end of July.


All of these restrictions are colliding with summer movie season, which is the biggest and busiest time of year for multiplexes. Without actors to promote their upcoming blockbusters, will the box office take a hit?


“It’s never a good thing to have stars unable to promote their films,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior Comscore analyst. “It’s difficult to quantify the exact impact that brings to the box office, but there’s no question it raises awareness.”


Analysts believe that depends on the duration of the strike. Imminent releases, like Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, which opened days before film and TV actors hit the picket lines, as well Greta Gerwig’s cotton candy-colored Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s dark atomic bomb drama Oppenheimer, which debut on July 21, will not be affected by the strike. They are best positioned because those films were able to effectively roll out their marketing campaigns before the beginning of the strike, with splashy magazine covers, viral interviews and more.


“By this point, moviegoers are aware of these films,” says Dergarabedian. “The timing of the actors strike, while never advantageous but certainly understandable, isn’t as big of a factor.”


But that could change in the coming weeks as the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (Aug. 2), the disaster thriller Meg 2: The Trench (Aug. 4), sports drama Gran Turismo (Aug. 11), the DC comic book adaptation Blue Beetle (Aug. 18) and Denzel Washington’s Equalizer 3 (Sept. 1) race to theaters.


“August [movies] are less dependent on personal appearances, and hopefully they can compensate with advertising and other marketing activities,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.


For those films, the directors may play a larger part in talking up their movies and raising awareness with viewers at home. And studios will ramp up spending on other promotional efforts, like trailers and TV spots. Some of those upcoming films, in preparation of the strike, banked interviews and other marketing materials before the actors began to picket.


Hollywood companies have canceled events and pivoted plans for others, including Disney’s Haunted Mansion remake, which opens theatrically July 28. Without the film’s stars LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson and Danny DeVito to walk the red carpet for interviews, last weekend’s world premiere was refashioned into a fan event. Disney characters, including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Maleficent, and Cruella De Vil, were on hand to pose for photos and greet the moviegoers in attendance.


In the case of Oppenheimer, there won’t be a red carpet for Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr. and Matt Damon, who aren’t expected to attend the film’s New York premiere on Monday. Instead, the studio is turning the night into a screening to “celebrate the crew and craftspeople who contributed to making this landmark film,” according to a spokesperson.


Deeper into the fall, there’s the antihero adventure Kraven the Hunter (Oct. 6), Martin Scorsese’s crime epic Killers of the Flower Moon (also Oct. 6), director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Part II (Nov. 3), Disney’s superhero sequel The Marvels (Nov. 10) and Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Nov. 17).


If SAG-AFTRA and film companies remain at odds by the end of the summer, movies may start to move back on the calendar, according to studio insiders. And with productions on hold indefinitely, several major titles set for 2024 and beyond could miss their release dates.


“If there is no resolution, the fall awards movies, the big Thanksgiving films, and the year-end titles are going to be impacted and the marketing is going to suffer,” Gross says. “None of this is good for the movies, in any way.”



By Rebecca Rubin


Link: https://variety.com/2023/film/news/sag-strike-summer-box-office-oppenheimer-barbie-1235671522/

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