How the 2023 SAG-AFTRA Strike Is Affecting Hollywood: From Delayed Releases to Empty Sets

The actors joined the writers on the picket line on July 14 after talks fell through with Hollywood studios and streamers.

On July 14, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), which represent more than 160,000 film and television actors, officially went on strike after they were unable to reach an agreement with major Hollywood studios and streamers by the July 12 deadline. Because of this, nearly all productions in Hollywood have been forced to shut down, which has already had an immediate impact on the industry with canceled premieres, axed publicity tours, delayed projects and abandoned sets.

Actors including Jason Sudeikis, Susan Sarandon, Olivia Wilde, Allison Janney, Josh Gad, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, Mandy Moore, Ben Schwartz and Sharon Lawrence are among those joining the writers -- who have been on strike since May 2 -- on the picket line. This marks the first time since 1960 that two major Hollywood guilds will be striking at the same time. 

"This is an inflection point in our industry," George Clooney said in a statement to ET one day after the actors' strike was formally announced. "Actors and writers in large numbers have lost their ability to make a living. For our industry to survive that has to change. For actors that journey starts now."

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Actors are asking for improved compensation and benefits, residuals that reflect the value of their contributions amid the expansion of streaming services, regulated use of artificial intelligence and the issue of self-taped auditions. Similarly, writers are seeking better residuals in the age of streaming, among other hot-button issues.

With actors joining the fight, it means Hollywood has come to a standstill and will remain this way until an agreement is reached by SAG-AFTRA and the major studios and streamers, which are being represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Until there is a new deal reached by both sides, expect top Hollywood actors to put down their scripts and pick up their picket signs as they hit the streets to join the fight.

Here's how the actors' strike has already impacted Hollywood.

Delayed Film Releases and Shakeups to Fall TV

In the weeks since the actors' strike has started, there have been a number of shifts in the theatrical release schedules for several major upcoming films while many broadcast and cable networks have started altering their fall lineups and changing premiere dates for new and returning TV shows. 

On the film side, ET has learned that A24, which has actually has two independent projects still in production, has pushed back the release of Problemista despite already premiering at the SXSW festival earlier this year. Originally set to come out on Aug. 4, the studio has moved its release date in support of writer, director and star Julio Torres, who joined the picket lines for both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. 

Additionally, Challengers, filmmaker Luca Guadagnino's anticipated romantic drama starring Zendaya, Josh O'Connor and Mike Faist, has canceled its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. "After thoughtful consideration with our partners, and given the parameters that SAG-AFTRA has outlined for its membership, we have made the difficult decision to withdraw Challengers from this year’s Venice International Film Festival. We look forward to celebrating the film when we can do so with our ensemble cast, director Luca Guadagnino, and the filmmaking team at a later date," a spokesperson for MGM/Amazon Studios told ET. 

Other delayed films include most of the upcoming Star Wars and Marvel Cinematic Universe movies as well as the Helen Mirren-led White Bird and the Dirty Dancing sequel, with both being pushed back until 2024. 

As for TV, CBS and Fox have both announced game show and reality TV-heavy lineups. The former is expanding the new seasons of The Amazing Race and Survivor to include 90-minute episodes while the latter has a number of music-themed competitions slated to premiere or return starting in September.

Both networks have said that premieres for most of their renewed or new scripted shows will be announced at a later date. 

Canceled Red Carpets and Premieres

The last major film premieres before the SAG-AFTRA strike went into effect were for Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling's Barbie, Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1 and Cillian Murphy's Oppenheimer, three of the most anticipated theatrical releases of the summer.

News of the impending actors' strike affected the London premiere of Oppenheimer as cast members Murphy, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh and others walked the red carpet and completed interviews hours before their union declared a strike, with Damon standing in solidarity with the striking writers. When it came time to screen the film, director Christopher Nolan appeared onstage without the cast, revealing that they had left "to write their picket signs" to fight "for fair wages for working members of the union."

Meanwhile, Universal Pictures confirmed the U.S. red carpet premiere on July 17 for Oppenheimer was canceled. Instead, only the movie will be screened for guests. "We will no longer be having a red carpet for Monday’s premiere," the studio said in a statement to ET on July 14. "In support of the ongoing SAG strike, the filmmakers of Oppenheimer will not be proceeding with the N.Y. premiere as originally planned, and will instead screen the movie to celebrate the crew and craftspeople who contributed to making this landmark film."

Additionally, the upcoming Paramount+ CIA spy series, Special Ops: Lioness, which stars Zoe Saldaña and Nicole Kidman, was set to have a Los Angeles premiere July 18, which has now been canceled in light of the SAG-AFTRA strike, Variety confirmed. The cast took part in the London premiere on July 11, marking the last red carpet event for the new Taylor Sheridan series, which launches July 23.

Expect any previously scheduled red carpets and premieres to go away as the actors continue to strike. 

No Promotional Interviews

As part of the strike order, actors are prohibited from promoting any upcoming, current and past film and TV projects on red carpets, at events, in junkets or during interviews, including podcasts. Many studios, networks and streamers attempted to bypass the issue by scheduling earlier-than-usual junkets and interviews before July 13 for releases coming later in the year in anticipation of an actors' strike.

Still, several junkets and interviews to promote new releases have been effectively delayed or canceled, with the upcoming seasons of Only Murders in the Building and Physical, slated for August launches, just two of the major shows that were planning publicity with press prior to the actors' strike.

Any plans for future red carpets or junkets have largely been scrapped due to the actors' strike. However, any subsequent exclusive interviews on ET were completed prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike declaration on July 13.

Filming on Sets Halted

Production on numerous sets and productions were already affected by the writers' strike, with many having to delay or stop filming due to scripts not being fully written before the work stoppage. Now, with the actors joining the cause, even more productions have been forced to abandon ship as actors are not allowed to work while the strike is ongoing. (Meanwhile, House of the Dragon continued to film amid the writers' strike and will move forward with production while the actors' strike gets underway, due to local U.K. union rules, Variety reported. To sum it up, the actors under contract -- many of them working via the U.K. union, Equity -- are not allowed to strike in solidarity with the actors' union stateside.)

That means productions that were operating normally up until July 13 are now ghost yards. Among them are the now-empty sets of Deadpool 3, which stars Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman and has a planned release date of May 3, 2024, and Wicked, with Ariana Grande, Cynthia Erivo and Bridgerton's Jonathan Bailey, with Part 1 slated to be released Nov. 27, 2024 and Part 2 scheduled for Nov. 26, 2025.

While there has been no official word, several film and TV productions that were currently filming are likely shut down as a result of the actors' strike. Vanity Fair listed several that are most likely affected, including Andor season 2, Beetlejuice 2 and Gladiator 2Paddington in Peru was reportedly set to begin production later this month, which likely now won't happen.

Changes to Comic-Con and Other Events 

As a result of the actors' strike, scheduled panels at major events like Comic-Con that studios and streamers have previously used as platforms to promote or launch anticipated films and TV shows have been canceled or reimagined as screenings, activations or actor-less panels.

Among the high-profile projects that were set to have a presence and will no longer appear in San Diego or have tweaked original plans for the fan convention are Dune 2 (which was supposed to be a surprise panel), Good Omens, The Rookie, Orphan Black: Echoes, The Wheel of Time, Abbott Elementary, Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire and That '70s Show, among others.

While there may be loopholes for actors to appear at conventions or do autograph signings, they are largely not permitted to promote, discuss or sign anything related to a movie or TV show in any capacity.

Emmy Awards Likely to Be Delayed

Though the Television Academy hasn't formally announced a decision, with the writers and actors striking at the same time, there likely will be a significant delay to the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards, which, at the moment, are scheduled to take place Monday, Sept. 18. With no immediate timetable set for a resolution on a new contract, the Emmys will likely need to be pushed. Variety reported July 11 that Fox, which has the awards telecast this year, is aiming for a new airdate of January 2024, while the TV Academy is hoping for no later than a November postponement. Emmy nominations were announced the morning of July 12 during a virtual ceremony, with TV Academy chairman Frank Scherma briefly addressing the uncertainty of the future.

The actors' strike also affects Emmy campaigning, as talent are barred from any For Your Consideration interviews, publicity or promotion as long as the strike continues. 

This will likely have a ripple effect on other awards shows, which may be forced to delay, cancel or completely rework their ceremonies. The Daytime Emmys, originally scheduled for June 16, was postponed indefinitely in an announcement made by the TV Academy on May 16, two weeks after the writers' strike began.

Layoffs and Job Losses

As the SAG-AFTRA/WGA strikes continue, the financial strain is being felt both by the creatives on the picket lines and, now, those who represent them at talent agencies.

On Aug. 10, news broke that major Hollywood talent agency CAA would be going through a round of layoffs and cost-cutting that would impact approximately 60 people, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The layoffs are expected to come within the next week and will include agents, executives and support staff. The publication notes, however, that the layoffs will impact a relatively small percentage of the thousands of people employed by the agency, and that staffing levels were being reevaluated even before SAG-AFTRA voted to strike.

That being said, THR reports that Endeavor -- which owns the talent agency WME and fashion agency IMG -- estimated in August that the ongoing strikes will cost the agencies around $25 million per month in revenue, which could lead to greater cost-cutting measures and additional rounds of layoffs in the future, as productions across the industry remain halted.