SAG-AFTRAs Duncan Crabtree-Ireland On Strikes Impact On Exhibition & Theatrical Sked; Provides Update On Indie Pics Promotion At Festivals

EXCLUSIVE: With such big 2023 movies such as Kraven the Hunter, the next Ghostbusters, the Zendaya romance Challengers and more moving into 2024 due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, exhibition is facing another possible recession should stars remain unable to promote.

Movie theaters are currently relishing a box office boom in Barbie and Oppenheimer with the last weekend of July at $217M setting a record for the month’s final frame. The domestic box office per Comscore for the period of Jan. 1-July 30 is coursing 20% ahead of last year at the same point in time with $5.8 billion. But dark days are likely ahead again for movie theaters after weathering a year-long shutdown during Covid. And again, it’s not just exhibition that’s being rattled by the strikes, but other parts of the industry as well including below-the-line and ancillary businesses such as show business dry cleaners.

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We asked SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator and National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland his thoughts on a lingering strike and its future impact on movie theaters.

“We’re not only supportive of, but really very much want the theatrical exhibition world to remain a viable place,” he responded.

“It’s obviously very challenged, but what we can’t do is — we can’t allow theatrical exhibition to become a way that the studios are sort of fueling their businesses during our strike,” said Crabtree-Ireland.

“We have to take a strong line.”

“The reason why we have interim agreements is because there are significant independent productions out there that have nothing to do with the AMPTP, they don’t have a seat at the table, they’re willing to accept the offer that we made to AMPTP on July 12.”

“To the extent that those independent productions can help bolster theatrical exhibition during this time, that’s great, but our 100% focus is on this strike and making sure we bring the AMPTP back to the table in a position where they can make a fair and respectful deal for our members.”

Regarding an update on indie acquisition titles and whether their casts can promote at film festivals, Crabtree-Ireland told Deadline today:

“If they can quality for an interim agreement, then they can do promotion at festivals or other places as well. It depends on are they within the parameters of what qualities for an interim agreement.”

To date, Crabtree-Ireland says SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP are “not back at the table; I wish we were.”

He added, “I heard some rumors that the studio execs are talking to each other, trying to get a sense of how to come back to the table and I hope that’s true and I hope that happens fast.”

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