Canadian theater owners are nervously watching the development of the double strike in Hollywood and plan to show more classics, cult films and live events if the labor disputes drag on.
Owners expect striking stars represented by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), and talent backed by the Writers Guild of America, to be on the picket lines during months as they campaign for better wages and protections against artificial intelligence.
The strikes, which immediately halted the production and promotion of movies and TV shows, risk slowing the flow of content as studios and distributors run out of films completed before the strike.
“I’m absolutely petrified about this,” said Jeff Knoll, general manager of Film.ca Cinemas, in Oakville, Ont.
“We barely survived the pandemic […] and we’re pretty worried about what the future holds with everything that’s going on in Hollywood right now. »
This week, Mr. Knoll’s Cinema has scheduled screenings of Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part One and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, as well as the highly anticipated Barbie and Oppenheimer.
However, Mr. Knoll fears that moviegoers have waited months, even years, to witness events that will finally run out of steam soon.
“There’s no doubt that if the strike drags on (the studios) will either have to start streaming their content or just postpone it until some future time when they anticipate the strike to be over,” he explained. .
Even if they don’t change their release times, Knoll thinks cinemas will be hit hard by a lack of promotion around the films.
The strikes prevent stars from walking red carpets, attending press conferences and interviews, and filming new promotional material.
The Oppenheimer cast, for example, walked out of their premiere in solidarity with the strikers last week, while Disney sent Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Maleficent and Cruella de Vil to The Haunted Mansion red carpet in place of the stars. Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito and Rosario Dawson.
Mr. Knoll also suspects that the new Mission: Impossible had a rough run at the box office because of the strikes.
“It didn’t perform the way it was supposed to over the weekend and that could very well be because there wasn’t as much publicity with the stars, especially Tom Cruise, before the day of the opening,” he argued.
If screening of new films slows, Knoll says he will try to bring in more Canadian works and films from areas of the world less affected by the strike. Bollywood movies and blockbuster screenings like “Harry Potter” could also be added to Film.ca’s schedule.
Corinne Lea, general manager of Vancouver’s Rio Theater, also plans to be smart with programming, but she stresses that’s nothing new for independent theaters.
Prior to the strikes, the Rio had to wait between three and six months to screen some movies that Cineplex, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, had had for months.
As a result, the Rio often screened new films months after their release and relied on a rotation of previously released burlesque and drag shows and Canadian hits.
Its July schedule includes screenings of Star Wars, a sing-along special of Grease and Jean-Luc Godard’s French New Wave drama Pierrot le fou. Hundreds of people show up to his screenings of classic hits like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Ms Lea added.
“We’re used to not being able to get current content,” she said.
“This strike is going to hurt Cineplex more than it hurts us, because all of the theaters that actually rely on current content are the ones that are going to have a problem. But because we’ve been denied access for so long, we’ve become like creative chameleons,” she said.
In May, when the 11,500 film and television screenwriters represented by the Writers Guild of America went on strike, Cineplex General Manager Ellis Jacob did not expect the strike to have a significant impact on his activities.
TV and online listening sites, whose content is terminated shortly before release, tend to feel the effect of these strikes, not cinemas, he explained.
“I always tell people yes, it’s going to affect us, but it’s going to take a long time to affect us,” he later claimed in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“We’re talking three years from now, because a lot of movies are already in production. »
In an email, a Cineplex spokesperson said, “Like everyone in the industry, we hope SAG-AFTRA and the WGA can reach a speedy resolution with AMPTP (US Studios). »