Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth can officially welcome fans back to Panem.
“The Hunger Games” prequel “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” has received an interim agreement from SAG-AFTRA, which means that stars Zegler, Blyth, Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage and Hunter Schafer are allowed to promote the film before it premieres in theaters on Nov. 17.
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It’s not clear why the agreement was granted so close to the film’s release date. But the late-breaking boost in publicity could be a huge help in getting people to go to the movies around Thanksgiving. “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” cost $100 million to produce and represents a gamble because it’s the first installment in the billion-dollar franchise in eight years, and the first without Jennifer Lawrence.
Amid the ongoing actors’ strike, starry films that didn’t get interim agreements — such as Sony’s comedy “Dumb Money,” with Seth Rogen, Pete Davidson and America Ferrera — have struggled at the box office without splashy red carpets or late-night talk show appearances. Other big-budget properties, like “Dune: Part Two,” moved to 2024 because Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya wouldn’t be able to talk up the Warner Bros. sequel ahead of its initial November 2023 release date.
So far, more than 100 films including A24’s “Priscilla” and “The Iron Claw,” as well as Michael Mann’s racing drama “Ferrari,” have obtained interim agreements amid the SAG-AFTRA strike. To get an interim agreement, producers must operate independently from companies belonging to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and agree to terms proposed by the guild in its negotiations. Since Lionsgate, which is backing “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” is not part of the AMPTP, its theatrical releases are eligible.
With the interim agreement in place, the cast is expected to attend the film’s premieres in Berlin and London, as well as a fan event in Los Angeles. Beyond press opportunities, the ensemble is free to post to the heavens about the prequel on social media where Zegler, for one, has more than 1.2 million followers (and the phrase “SAG-AFTRA Strong” in her Instagram bio).
After the news broke, Zegler posted a lengthy statement to thank Lionsgate and SAG-AFTRA for “working so hard throughout this strike to come to an agreement.” She added, “Lionsgate’s efforts are proof that studios, big and small, can meet us in a place of fairness for their films and the people who work so hard to make them.”
She described the filmmaking experience as one of the best of her life, so she says she is particularly thrilled to share the behind-the-scenes photos and stories from the set. As a preview, Zegler posted a picture of her co-star Josh Andrés Rivera (who also happens to be her boyfriend — the couple met filming 2021’s “West Side Story”) “absolutely eating up the camera.”
“Cannot believe I get to say this, with only a few weeks to spare,” she wrote. “But… see you out there on our press tour!”
Based on Suzanne Collins’ novel, the upcoming film takes place decades before Katniss Everdeen emerged as the Girl on Fire in “The Hunger Games.” The prequel story follows 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow (Blyth), who eventually becomes the tyrannical leader of the dystopia known as Panem. In “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” he’s chosen to be a mentor to the tribute Lucy Gray Baird (Zegler) during the 10th Hunger Games, a televised event in which teenagers are chosen via lottery to fight to the death.
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