Industry boss: US actors strike may cause little if any disruption to UK cinemas

Industry boss: US actors strike may cause little if any disruption to UK cinemas (Chris Pizzello/AP)
Industry boss: US actors strike may cause little if any disruption to UK cinemas (Chris Pizzello/AP)

The chief executive of the UK Cinema Association says the Hollywood actors’ strike may cause “little if any disruption” to British theatres, but it was likely that some film premieres in the UK would go ahead without talent until the dispute was resolved.

Phil Clapp told the PA news agency that unless the strike by the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (Sag-Aftra), which began on Friday, was a “protracted one” disruption would be minimal for the “foreseeable future”.

On Thursday, Robert Downey Jr, Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh were among the stars who staged a walkout of the London premiere of historical epic Oppenheimer due to the strike.

Mr Clapp told the PA news agency: “While it will clearly be for each individual to make their own decision, it may be that until the dispute is resolved we will see some premieres not being supported by the ‘talent’ in front of or behind the camera.”

He added: “In terms of wider UK cinema-going, then given the challenges UK cinema operators have faced in the last few years, all will be concerned by anything which might potentially threaten the supply of films to the big screen, and so it is very much hoped that there will be a quick resolution.”

Mr Clapp said there was already a “strong slate” of films locked in for coming weeks including Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One and Barbie, as well as Oppenheimer.

“Unless the current strike is a protracted one, we are confident that cinemas will see little if any disruption in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Among the productions in the UK that could be affected by the strike action is the filming of Deadpool 3, starring Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman.

House Of The Dragon series two with Matt Smith and Emma D’Arcy could also be affected, alongside the second series of The Sandman with Tom Sturridge and the fourth series of Slow Horses with Academy Award winner Gary Oldman.

The general secretary of British performing arts and entertainment trade union Equity said that impact on productions may depend on whether an actor is under an Equity or Sag-Aftra contract.

The union, which represents more than 47,000 performers in the UK, says it stands in solidarity with US actors who are striking in the dispute with Hollywood studios.

Paul Fleming told PA: “So a Sag-Aftra or an Equity member working on an Equity contract is not on strike because that’s not the contract in dispute.

“Where it gets a little bit more complicated is that there are some Sag-Aftra members around the world who are working on Sag-Aftra contracts alongside others who are on Equity contracts.

“So imagine something that shoots in multiple locations, for instance, and (the actor) might be on a full American contract, their position is more ambiguous and more complicated.”

He said that if the dispute goes on then there will be a “major impact” as British actors working on American contracts are now on strike.

Mr Fleming said: “The vast majority of shows that are recorded principally in the UK or in Europe are on our agreements so that’s the consequence but there will be some that stop.”

Equity – which is not striking – has told US companies it will be keeping a “very close eye” on any attempts to move productions to the UK due to the action called on Thursday evening.

Mr Fleming told PA he is “hopeful” a settlement with members of (Sag-Aftra) will come soon.”

He said: “Anything that happens on a British contract, we’re looking to next year’s negotiations.

“The one exception is if there are productions from the United States that attempt to avoid the industrial action by relocating to the United Kingdom – we are keeping a very, very close eye on them.”

Mr Fleming added that the Hollywood studios, production companies and streamers are not “going to win” as actors’ resolve is “absolute”.

He said: “Our view is that we have complete and utter solidarity and support with Sag-Aftra.

“We will do all we legally can do to support and uphold their industrial action, and the message to the producers who operate over here is: get your house in order, get to the table quickly before this starts impacting the global industry.”

The actors’ strike comes amid the ongoing industrial action by more than 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), who began industrial action on May 2.