Weekend Box Office: SAG-AFTRA Strike Shows Impact

SAG-AFTRA on Strike. Courtesy of SAG-AFTRA.

While a major storm impacts the Pacific Coast numbers, it’s likely that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are impacting the weekend box office.

Both Barbie and Oppenheimer are aided in their success by the fact that their publicity campaigns started ahead of the SAG-AFTRA strike. Warner Bros. was so focused in launching Barbie that they likely didn’t even have Blue Beetle on their mind yet. It definitely did not do the film any favors by not having a presence in Hall H during Comic Con in July. Meanwhile, Strays is especially hurt by the fact that its stars could not appear on any of the late night comedy talk shows. Will Ferrell bits always go viral and that would have helped the film do better than the estimated $8 million at the weekend box office. Universal made the decision to delay the film because of the WGA strike. Maybe they thought people would be back at work by now?

Weekend estimates:

  • Blue Beetle – $25.4 million
  • Barbie – $21.5 million
  • Oppenheimer – $10.6 million
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem – $8.4 million
  • Strays – $8.3 million

What’s really interesting in looking at the numbers are Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Both films are blockbuster tentpoles but are also underperforming compared to previous installments. Neither have hit $200 million at the domestic box office and are highly unlikely to do at this point.

Comedies in general are having a tough go of it in recent years. Some original comedies are able to break the $100 million mark. Others, not so much. I’ve written at length about this in the past. SXSW is one of the best launching pads for an R-rated comedy. Universal is no stranger to launching their films at the Austin-based festival. Blockers, Good Boys, etc. Would a SXSW premiere have been a benefit to the film? Probably. It is really hard to say though. Would there have been room for Strays with R-rated comedies Joy Ride and Bottoms? It is a really good question but I do not know. Maybe.

Publicity campaigns matter. Having actors available to do press and promotion on social media matters. Activating actors for press or social media always help in the film’s financial success. Both Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures are seeing the first-hand impact of the double strike with WGA and SAG-AFTRA picketing outside studio gates. Blue Beetle is an important picture when it comes to diversity, even if it feels rather formulaic as a comic book movie. Whether it gets a sequel will probably depend on breaking even at the box office. James Gunn may be calling Blue Beetle the first DCU character in the DC Films rebooted universe. At the end of the day though, everything is about numbers. Blue Beetle’s numbers are similar to that of the Shazam! sequel.

I get why SAG-AFTRA is not allowing members to promote projects in the press or on social media. If the studios see how this is hurting the overall bottom line, it should very well lead the AMPTP back to the table. We already know that the likes of Bob Iger and Ted Sarandos want to end the strikes. Everyone–myself included–wants to see Hollywood back at work. When everyone is working, it shows a healthy ecosystem throughout the current industry. Sure, the marketing and publicity teams could learn how to use Bluesky to their benefit and drop Twitter for good. That is another story for another day at the moment though. The good thing for now is that the AMPTP is negotiating with the WGA.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.