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Poor Things: Emma Stone & Mark Ruffalo Feature Delayed Due To Strikes

Despite "Barbenheimer" bringing back pre-pandemic box office glory, the immediate future of the Hollywood film slate seems grimmer with each passing day the AMPTP fails to resolve labor disputes with the striking WGA and SAG-AFTRA unions. Until negotiations reach an amicable end, newly released films would have to fare at the box office without the support of the writers and actors that made them possible — a prospect scaring some studios into delaying anticipated 2023 titles.

In the wake of A24 and Lionsgate respectively pushing the releases of "Problemista" and "White Bird" just days before they were expected to hit theaters, The Hollywood Reporter reports Searchlight Pictures has delayed "Poor Things" from September 8 to December 8. The Yorgos Lanthimos feature will still screen at the Venice International Film Festival next month without the participation of its cast, which includes Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, and Willem Dafoe.

Without cast promotion, many studios are anxiously eyeing the fall and winter 2023 calendar, wondering if their projects can survive a strike that shows no signs of stopping without a fair deal.

Lack of cast promotion is deadly to new films

In addition to A24, Lionsgate, and now Searchlight, MGM Studios and Warner Bros. have delayed or are considering shifting projects due to the strike. MGM (owned by Amazon) pulled the steamy Zendaya-led romantic drama "Challengers" out of its opening slot at Venice (reportedly against the wishes of director Luca Guadagnino) and shifted its wide release to next year. Warner Bros., meanwhile, is reportedly weighing the idea of moving star-studded works "Dune: Part 2," "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom," and "The Color Purple" to a post-strike release window in 2024.

Though writers like Charlie Day ("Fool's Paradise") have been skipping premieres and press events for months, newly striking actors have made their absences felt at high-profile releases like "Oppenheimer." Searchlight's decision to push "Poor Things" to December comes on the heels of a particularly awkward red carpet for Disney's "Haunted Mansion," where social media influencers and costumed characters from the theme park replaced the film's stars (including LaKeith Stanfield and Danny DeVito).

Cast promotion has been an anxiety for executives since before the SAG strike began. Tom Cruise — who produced and starred in this year's "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One" — pleaded with the union during negotiations to consider amending strike rules against promotion due to the fragile state of the theater industry. Whether or not Searchlight's actions reflect Disney's concerns remains to be seen as they await the prospective releases of "The Marvels" and "Wish" later this year.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. To learn more about why writers and actors are currently on strike, click here for an up-to-date explainer from our Looper team.