Movie theater operators are projecting a debilitating post-Barbenheimer hangover, as the twin strikes by the SAG-AFTRA and WGA threaten to erase upcoming blockbusters and Oscar-season prestige films from the 2023 film release calendar.
It’s a fun bit of trivia that the Examiner brings us the news that the Barbie movie is the Outer Richmond’s Balboa Theatre’s biggest money-making film ever in the theater's 99-year history. Barbie has currently grossed $1.34 billion worldwide, while Oppenheimer has itself pulled in $853.2 million worldwide. And that’s a sorely needed boost for a COVID-battered movie theater industry that, locally, has seen the loss of the Westfield's Century 9, the Landmark Embarcadero, West Portal’s CineArts, and the CGV San Francisco (formerly 1000 Van Ness).
But that boost may go bust because of the ongoing writers and actors strikes by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). The Examiner reports that SF movie theaters are worried that the rest of 2023’s big movie openings will be delayed, because actors are refusing to do publicity tours for new releases during the strike.
"You can't help but support the actors and the writers. They need to have something set in stone for them. I completely understand that," Balboa Theatre owner and operator Adam Bergeron told the Examiner. "It's just hard to imagine that it won't affect the exhibition business negatively."
The celluloid really hit the fan with the late August announcement that tentpole blockbuster Dune: Part Two had its release date moved to March 2024, after an original November 3, 2023 release date. Other projected smash hits being moved to 2024 include Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire and the Zendaya tennis drama Challengers.
All of these movies have completed filming, and are in the can and ready to go. The film’s studios just don’t want to release the movies if the star-studded casts are unwilling to promote them with publicity appearances.
"Writ-large, we're bummed out," Alamo Drafthouse programmer Jake Isgar said to the Examiner. "But the movies will come out when they come out. We definitely want the artists to be paid for their labor."
As things stand now, there are plenty of big releases and Oscar-bait films still scheduled to be released in 2023, despite the strike. Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro is still on for December 20, plus other perceived Oscar contenders like the Joaquin Phoenix vehicle Napoleon (November 22), and the musical version of The Color Purple (December 25). And big-budget crowd-pleasers are still on too: Saw X (October 27), The Marvels (November 10), The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (November 17), and the Timothée Chalamet Wonka reboot (December 15).
But those dates could change yet too. Oh, and there’s no guarantee the actors and writers strikes will end by early 2024.
Image: @sagaftra via Twitter