The strike prevents actors from promoting films at premieres or festivals

It’s already been a tough year for movie theaters, with the North American box office down nearly 20 percent from a year ago. And that was when actors could promote their movies.

With SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, going on strike as of Friday, its 160,000 members are officially barred not only from acting in projects involving major Hollywood studios but also from engaging in any publicity efforts for films and TV shows that were already in place. complete.

This means no appearances, either online or in person, including at the upcoming Comic-Con International in San Diego, several fall film festivals and any film premieres or television promotional events. Earlier this week, SAG-AFTRA officials held phone calls with major Hollywood agencies and advocates to explain the strike’s rules for both production and promotion of upcoming projects. And on Thursday, after announcing the strike, the union issued 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 hype,” said Terry Press, a senior Hollywood marketer. “When you don’t have any form of advertising, and it’s more or less free, you have to try to make that hype. After all, it’s expensive, especially in the summer, when there’s very little advertising you can actually buy that will attract large groups of people. persons.”

It would also be embarrassing. This was evident even before the actors’ union announced on Thursday that it would agree to the strike. A few hours earlier, the movie “Oppenheimer” starring Christopher Nolan was premiering in London.

Oppenheimer is one of the most anticipated films of the summer, with struggling theater owners pointing to the film — along with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and the latest Mission: Impossible chapter with Tom Cruise — as one that could get pumped. 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 effect. First, it’s cranked up an hour, so a cast full of bold names—including Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, and Cillian Murphy—can walk the red carpet. They then all leave before the show begins, in solidarity with the union.

“They went to write their sit-down signs,” Mr. Nolan quipped to the crowd of 800.

Universal Pictures said it would still hold the “Oppenheimer” premiere in New York on Monday, but that none of the actors would be attending.

The lack of loud premieres and the usual round of publicity for films is a concern for the movie theater industry that was hoping to boost business in the second half of the year.

The strike is also worrisome for the fall film festival circuit, which relies on actors appearing in person to promote their prestige films headed toward award season. “These films, all on the festival circuit, are nothing but publicity,” said Ms. Brace.

Actors looking for Oscar gold usually make the pilgrimage to Italy for the Venice International Film Festival at the end of August, then head 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 making those films requires the festival circuit,” said Ms. Press. “This is when I think you will start to experience serious repercussions.”

TV is also affected. Although the Emmy nominations were announced Wednesday, none of the nominated actors will be able to promote their work. When asked how the awards show – due to take place in September but likely to be postponed if the strike drags on – would be affected by the strike, chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree said: “Our strike rules will not allow any form of promotion of TV series or streaming series produced under These contracts. I would expect any actor’s participation in an Emmy campaign to end.”