Amidst the mass months-long strikes, Hollywood studios are desperately looking to fill the publicity gap left by striking actors, who are barred by their union from promoting projects through red carpets and press tours during the work stoppage.

As the current mega movie of the summer, Barbie, has shown us, actors are crucial to the promotion of a film. From fashion brands promoted on red carpets to funny behind-the-scenes stories shared on the Graham Norton show, the power of the actor in movie promo cannot be underestimated. 

With actors now walking the picket lines, Hollywood studios will have no choice but to focus more heavily on paid advertising, influencer marketing, attention-grabbing stunts and cross-promotions with consumer brands, according to industry experts.

As with most major problems, creative solutions must come to the rescue here. Danielle Garnier, who founded a Chicago-based film publicity and marketing agency called Garnier Public Relations, told the Wall Street Journal expressed that “(studios) are so used to marketing as a machine and using people, and they can’t anymore […] I think it’s going to hurt.”

Only last week, the cast of the hottest film of the moment (aside from Barbie), Universal Pictures’ “Oppenheimer”, walked out of the film’s London premiere just after the union voted to strike. To add to the matter, the cast of Disney’s “Haunted Mansion” weren’t seen at its Disneyland premiere on Saturday, leaving several executives, theme park performers and nonunion YouTube creators as the biggest names on the red carpet.

Conflicts are already emerging around influencers and other kinds of talent. Rumours have it that studios might pay influencers to lead fan-centric events or crowdsource social-media content from both creators and fans. However, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which also started accepting influencers in 2021, is warning influencers in the union that they can’t take new work from companies subject to the strike. Nonunion influencers who promote the striking companies will lose the possibility of joining later, SAG-Aftra said in an FAQ posted to a dedicated strike website.

Most likely, influencers with smaller audiences may continue promoting studio titles, but most big-name creators will likely pass in order to avoid backlash from fans and union members. An example of such an occurrence is Andra Gogan, a content creator who has nearly 11 million TikTok followers, who apologised on Instagram this week after she was criticised for appearing at the “Haunted Mansion” premiere.

The actors’ strike is proving to be larger and more disruptive than the Writers Guild of America strike that began in May. “I just don’t think that anyone was completely prepared for this,” said Michael McIntyre, chief executive of marketing agency Mocean, which produces film trailers and assorted marketing materials for Disney, Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery, among others. Films out already like “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” have already benefited from monthslong marketing efforts and will likely perform as expected. But a lengthy strike will undercut the box-office potential of late-summer and fall releases, as well as the value of film festivals and awards shows, said media analyst Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson.

Movies scheduled for release later this year include “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” featuring the voices of stars including Jackie Chan, Rose Byrne and John Cena; “The Equalizer 3,” starring Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning; and the long-awaited “Killers of the Flower Moon,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro. These are the movies whose promotion will suffer. 

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