The actors’ strike in the US has already impacted this year’s BFI London Film Festival (LFF), with none of the major stars showing up to promote their new films. This lack of celebrity presence has noticeably dampened the buzz and media coverage surrounding the festival.
The SAG-AFTRA union is taking a hard line, refusing to grant strike waivers for actors to attend festivals and events and resulting in the red carpets looking rather lacklustre. The US union keeps pressure on the streaming services to increase residuals and bring compensation more in line with traditional studios. This stifling of buzz at major festivals like LFF, Venice Biennale and TIFF is collateral damage as the union flexes its muscle.
I spoke with the BFI LFF Programmer Rowan Woods earlier this week who remained optimistic about the course of the festival. However, it remains to be seen how this quieter festival atmosphere will affect the box office revenues for these films when they are officially released.
We were already a long way down the road with putting the programme together before the strikes kicked in, so we had to just hold our nerve and keep moving without worrying too much about things that were out of our control. With the SAG-AFTRA strikes still in effect our carpets may look a bit different this year, but a significant proportion of our guests each year come from outside the US, so we will still have a rich array of visitors in town to support their films.Rowan Woods, BFI London Film Festival Programmer
It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that the lack of hype coming out of the LFF could potentially hurt ticket sales. The strength of the films themselves, combined with marketing campaigns closer to their release dates, may still manage to draw audiences but the true commercial impact of the actors’ strike on these movies will not be clear until they hit theatres in the coming months.
The muted atmosphere in London this week seems likely to limit the LFF’s ability to give its films an early boost in momentum and public awareness.