Unlike Covid, which forced a sudden and immediate shutdown of feature film productions that ultimately cost the studios anywhere north of $30 million per pic, the Hollywood majors have been planning and bracing for the WGA strike that began today since last fall.
For several of the studios, their theatrical releases dated for 2024 are in post-production, though there are some exceptions.
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The contracts for the DGA and SAG-AFTRA do not expire until June 30, and some movie productions are scheduled to start up before then. Studios have figured out workarounds: a handful of tentpole productions are shooting overseas where there isn’t a heavy Teamsters presence, and the possibility of a shoot closing is less likely. Furthermore, studios have either locked scripts for productions, or have gotten sign-off on not having a scribe on set. The priority in case of a shutdown: Getting big action scenes out of the way first. Come Memorial Day weekend, if there’s still a WGA strike, we’re told studios will do another assessment of their planned June production starts.
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Both the directors and actors unions will be required to work until June 30, when both the DGA and SAG-AFTRA contracts expire.
SAG-AFTRA sent out a memo at the end of April instructing members: “If you are contracted to work on a project that continues production while the WGA is on strike, you are legally obligated to continue working by your personal services agreement and the ‘no strike’ clause in our collective bargaining agreements.” The DGA also issued a no-strike clause to its members.
Those films currently shooting include Sony’s Will Smith and Martin Lawrence reteam Bad Boys 4 with directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah in Atlanta; Sony’s Ghostbusters sequel directed by Gil Kenan in NYC (due out Dec 20), the Culver City studio’s Blake Lively and Jenny Slate romantic drama It Ends With Us, Robert Eggers’ Focus Features title Nosferatu, in central Europe (and nearing completion); and Legendary’s Faces of Death, which will wrap its Louisiana shoot in two weeks. There is also 20th Century’s new Alien movie from Fede Alvarez, which is lensing in Budapest and wraps in mid-June.
Bad Boys 4, which does not have a release date yet, will continue shooting uninterrupted per the SAG-AFTRA and DGA collective bargaining agreements. It is also scheduled to wrap around mid-June.
Also currently in production is Disney/Marvel Studios’ Captain America: New World Order, which is expected to tee off next summer on May 3, 2024. Jon M. Chu’s feature take of the Broadway smash Wicked, which will be released by Universal in two parts, is close to finish in London; the studio dropped the pic’s first footage at CinemaCon. Wicked Part 1 hits theaters on November 27, 2024.
Again, if the studios have the goods, and are ready to go, they’re rolling cameras. Among those set for a June start are Marvel’s Thunderbolts (release date: July 26, 2024), Paramount’s untitled Gladiator sequel in the Europe (November 22, 2024), along with several undated pics including Warner Bros’ Beetlejuice in the UK on June 9, Clint Eastwood’s Juror No. 2 on June 19, and New Line’s Mortal Kombat 2.
Meanwhile, other high-profile pics are still in prep and can wait the strike through, i.e., Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (release date: December 20, 2024) and Superman: Legacy, Warner Bros’ first movie in James Gunn’s “Gods and Monsters” DC universe, which is eyeing an early 2024 production start for a July 11, 2025 theatrical release.
The biggest impact a strike would have on these motion pictures during a shoot remains rolling cameras without a writer on set; no changes to the screenplay can be made. Also, for any movie filming in the U.S., the Teamsters could play into production delays.
Of the 2024 releases in post-production, there’s Warner Bros’ lineup of Barry Levinson’s Wise Guys (release date: February 2), Legendary’s Godzilla/King Kong reteam (March 24), Bong Joon Ho’s Mickey 17 (March 29), Furiosa (May 24) and the still-to-be-dated Coyote vs. Acme. Paramount, too, is on the ball next year with Bob Marley: One Love (January 12), A Quiet Place: Day One (March 8), John Krasinski’s IF (May 24) and even Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 2 (June 28).
To be determined as the strike lingers are what projects on paper with talent attachments will get axed due to force majeure. Such was the case during the 2007-08 strike when Warner Bros killed a George Miller-planned Justice League with Adam Brody as The Flash and then fresh-faced actors Armie Hammer as Batman and Megan Gale as Wonder Woman. Further complicating that pic’s productions was the lack of Australian tax breaks, and the need for the script’s polish by scribes Kieran and Michele Mulroney. Other planned pics unplugged back then included Oliver Stone’s Pinkville about the Vietnam War’s My Lai Massacre with Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum.
Disney’s release schedule looks to be rock solid in its release dates through early 2024, with the animated Elio on March 1 and Snow White on March 22.
However, rushing also doesn’t help, and the 2007-08 strike yielded a slew of movies that misfired both at the box office and with critics. That list included the Rob Marshall musical Nine ($54 million in worldwide box office, $80 million cost) and the Will Ferrell remake of the 1970s TV series Land of the Lost ($68.8M WW, $100M cost). Although there wasn’t a strike in 2001, the studios’ anticipation of one led to such undercooked movies as The Truth About Charlie, Reign of Fire and Dark Blue.
As we previously reported, should the WGA strike last four months or longer, that’s when studios will be forced to push their movies to later release dates, meaning deeper into 2024 and beyond.
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