“Mission: Impossible” star Tom Cruise may be running, jumping and cheating death on your local movie theater screen right now, but in real life? He’s not working.
And neither are his fellow stars. On Thursday, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), the union representing the majority of actors in film and television, went on strike when negotiations broke down for new contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), joining picket lines alongside the already-striking Writers Guild of America. That effectively shuts down Hollywood until these groups can come to an agreement, although film fans likely won’t see an impact for a while.
Here’s what you need to know about how the strikes affect movie fans now and in the future:
‘We are the victims here’:Hollywood actors strike, shutting down the film, TV industry
Why is the actors’ strike is such a big deal?
Because SAG-AFTRA is “15 times the size” of the writers guild, “it’s going to put wind in the sails reinforcing both strikes when they start picketing” Friday, says entertainment lawyer Jonathan Handel, an expert on Hollywood unions and guilds. News coverage of the picket lines will show “stars that you recognize alongside actors that you don’t, and of course, it’s the actors that most people don’t recognize who are most affected.”
The last time SAG and WGA were on strike together was 1960, when Ronald Reagan headed the actors’ union.
Are ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ still coming out next week in theaters?
Don’t worry, your tickets to a “Barbenheimer” double feature are all good.
Will other 2023 movies be pushed back?
Movies for the rest of the year will come out on time, Handel says, though stars won’t be out and about as much as they normally would: “Not only are they prohibited from filming once the strike starts, they’re prohibited from doing promotional activities for those movies.” For example, the annual pop-culture fest Comic-Con is taking place next week in San Diego, but actors won’t be showing up there to support their films and TV shows.
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Are any movies being made right now?
Work on movies such as Marvel’s “Blade” and “Thunderbolts” was already paused because of the writers’ strike, but the actors joining them shuts down and/or delays many more productions, a long list that includes the “Beetlejuice” sequel, the next “Gladiator” and the high-profile movie musical “Wicked.”
The only places where cameras might be rolling are “truly independent” movies that don’t have any financing or distribution deals with a major studio or streaming service, Handel says. “The union has indicated that it would be open to granting waivers, but a movie in that circumstance has no real economic significance. It’s not going to get seen by very many people in general. (But) how many movies are there in theaters that garner significant box office? And a movie for TV or streaming, if it’s for Netflix or whatever, it’s not going to get a waiver.”
How will the strike affect what we see on Netflix and other on streaming services?
If the strike goes on for months, streaming giants will likely fill their subscribers’ playlists with international movies starring non-SAG talent, like Netflix streaming the Indian action blockbuster “RRR” last year. “Netflix is really adept at creating that international content and in a way that is appealing to American audiences, something that was never really successfully attempted in the past,” Handel says. “Foreign product used to be what you’d see in an arthouse theater, and that was it – very elite and small audiences. So that’s one source of substitute content that we will see and the viewers will notice.”
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What about film festivals, awards season and other events?
The road to the 96th Academy Awards begins soon, with film festivals in Venice, Telluride and Toronto kicking off in the next couple of months. Directors will likely be there for their projects – since their guild agreed on a new deal with AMPTP – but actors won’t be walking red carpets or doing panels as long as the strike goes on. “I’d be very surprised if an actor can go to Venice or Sundance and promote a movie that’s got a studio deal,” Handel says.
When will audiences notice a difference at the movies?
Probably not until 2024, according to Handel. Some movies scheduled for the fall might be moved into the new year to space things out and keep fresh movies rolling into the cineplex but the well will eventually dry up.
“Even if the strikes get resolved in the fall, with the lead time for motion picture production obviously so much greater than television, you will see shortages of product next summer, for example, and a year from now,” Handel says.