How can a film be marketed without stars? A public relations dilemma amid the actors’ strike

Marketing a film poses inherent challenges, but doing so without the charismatic leader to promote it to the press circuit adds an additional hurdle – as the teams behind a growing number of recent titles have learned, or soon will when the SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike begins in Hollywood.

by Netflix They cloned Tyrone The premiere took place in Los Angeles ahead of the film’s July 21 release, but was without star Jamie Foxx, who has been largely ignored by the public since his daughter announced in April that he was recovering after hospitalization for a undisclosed health issue. Other stars have recently been absent from the red carpet for different reasons: Jonah Hill cited mental health issues when refusing to promote Netflix you peoplewhile Ezra Miller did not speak to the media for Warner Bros.’ the flash after a series of headlines about the star’s personal life.

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Meanwhile, the ongoing writers’ strike has left some high-profile creators unable to fend for their work – including Barbie co-writer Noah Baumbach skipped the film’s premiere in support of the Writers Guild of America – and took home late-night TV interviews and SNL as promotional tools. The SAG-AFTRA strike threatens to make options even more limited, and the talents in this month’s high-profile releases were grabbing the last opportunity. Actors of Oppenheimer And Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 were still ongoing with press interviews previously scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the strike which began early Friday.

“Jamie is obviously not with us, and we really feel the difference”, They cloned Tyrone producer Stephen Love recounts The Hollywood Reporter, before the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike. “But at the same time, he’s such a legend, and he’s so advertised, that as long as he’s in the movie, when people see him and they see the marketing of the movie, they still feel his presence. “

A press tour is only one weapon in a film’s marketing arsenal, but it is considered an important weapon. When wanderers‘ the scheduled June release date was moved to August 18, a potential upside was that the delay would allow time for the WGA’s standoff with the AMPTP to resolve in hopes that late night might help to promote the risque comedy starring Foxx, Will Ferrell, Isla Fisher and others voicing a group of dogs. Alas, there is no end in sight, although insiders were hoping that Foxx would participate in some press opportunities to wanderers.

“It’s critical that key stars do their required publicity rounds to support their film, period,” says Jason E. Squire, professor emeritus at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and podcast host. The movie industry, while noting that medical reasons represent an important exception. “It’s an example of Hollywood balance, where it’s good for the film, and it’s good for the artist. It improves the career of the artist to talk about the work and it attracts attention of the media world on the artist.

Promoting a film without a star is not necessarily a new dilemma. Russell Schwartz, an associate professor at Chapman University, recalls several campaigns facing such a problem during his tenure as president of marketing for New Line. One was for the years 2005 The new World, as the press-averse Terrence Malick feature was also without the backing of stars Colin Farrell and Christian Bale after Farrell headed to rehab weeks before its release. The film crew moved into a limited Oscar qualifying run at the end of the year before expanding in February, but the absences were felt. “We kind of [lost] our moment,” says Schwartz. “It was hard.”

His team had to employ a different strategy to navigate in 2006 The story of the Nativity due to the actual pregnancy of Keisha Castle-Hughes, the 16-year-old actress playing the Virgin Mary. Schwartz recalls that the bulk of the press opportunities went to director Catherine Hardwicke and then-unknown Oscar Isaac, who portrayed Joseph, in addition to a greater focus on the IP itself. But for original movies like They cloned Tyrone Or wanderers, there is no familiarity to rely on. (Notably, streamers like Netflix tend to put less marketing muscle into titles than traditional studios.)

The years that followed brought the prevalence of social media, adding a resource to reach viewers. Albert Lieberman, the founder of Gray Entertainment who worked on marketing campaigns for Warner Bros. franchises. such as Batman and Harry Potter, points out that Foxx shares the tyron trailer on Instagram last month to his 17 million Instagram followers as a way for a star to make an impact on notoriety. It’s unclear if the post actually drew attention to the film itself, as numerous user comments noted similarities between the premise – about conspiracy theories surrounding an apparent cloning experiment – and the vague of rumors centering on the actor’s actual recovery.

Amid the writers’ strike, marketers have had to double down on less conventional platforms. For Sony’s recent saucy comedy No strong emotionsthat meant booking Jennifer Lawrence not just on Bravo Watch what’s happening live but also the chatting-with-wings show from YouTube The hottest. “Even if there were late night shows, I would try to get Jennifer involved. The hottestsays Schwartz, who notes that the program “probably gets a lot more conversation the next day anyway” than a standard visit to one of the Jimmys.

Yet the talk of the box office impact of a press tour continues in light of the flash underperforming. “It’s still debatable whether star attraction translates to dollars,” says Schwartz, noting that the film’s main appeal stems from its DC Comics brand. “Would Ezra’s participation really move the needle?” I don’t necessarily agree with that. And Comscore box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian points out that the press moments most likely to affect a project’s results tend to come from high-profile names like Tom Cruise: “The more the power of the higher the star, the greater the impact”.

When asked if Miller’s lack of participation hurt the flash‘s, Lieberman offers a truism about a marketer’s predicament: “The one thing no one has ever been able to overcome is a movie people don’t like.”

It remains to be seen whether the cast strike will spur additional pivots. After major Hollywood PR firms were told earlier this week by SAG-AFTRA to point out that the actors won’t be available to promote their projects, a publicist joked that THR“Time to sign influencers.”

Anaja Smith and Mia Galuppo contributed reporting.

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