The highly anticipated Los Angeles premiere of Sofia Coppola’s new film Priscilla, starring Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley, was unexpectedly canceled just days before the event was scheduled to take place. The premiere was set to be held on Monday evening at the prestigious American Legion Theater in Hollywood but was derailed due to an ongoing contract dispute between the venue’s operators and IATSE Local 33, the union representing projectionists.
After becoming aware of the labor conflict on Thursday night, distributor A24 made the decision on Friday to relocate the premiere to an alternate, yet-to-be-disclosed venue in solidarity with the union. IATSE Local 33 began picketing outside the American Legion Theater on September 14th, accusing the venue of committing unfair labor practices by going back on a collective bargaining agreement reached with the union in April.
According to Ronald R. Valentine, business representative of IATSE Local 33, “The American Legion Post 43 has committed multiple unfair labor practices, most significantly reneging on an agreement reached in April 2023 for a new collective bargaining agreement and misleading its membership about its conditions. As a result, IATSE Local 33 had no choice but to call a strike.” Valentine called upon the union’s allies, including SAG-AFTRA, to boycott any events held at Post 43 until a resolution was reached.
The executive committee of Post 43 responded that they “will not be bullied into signing an unfair agreement for our veterans.” Email exchanges obtained by The Hollywood Reporter showed that Post 43 offered to hire union projectionists only for certain events, which Local 33 rejected as inadequate to resolve the labor dispute.
The now-canceled premiere was set to feature appearances by Priscilla Presley herself, director Sofia Coppola, and stars Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi. In a surprising PR move, publicity reps initially claimed the red carpet was canceled “out of respect for the events going on in the world,” alluding to rising conflicts in the Middle East, rather than admitting the labor dispute.
The state-of-the-art Legion Theater has become a prestigious venue for Hollywood events in recent years, even earning a 2023 Kodak Film Award recognizing its exhibition quality. But behind the scenes, the veterans’ club operating the theater has faced internal turmoil over finances, power struggles, and allegations of sexual assault, as reported in recent Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter investigations.
- IATSE Local 33 consulted with SAG-AFTRA prior to calling the strike, as Priscilla had been granted an interim agreement with the actors guild. Emails obtained by THR show SAG-AFTRA was made aware of the labor dispute and agreed to stand in solidarity with IATSE.
- Representatives for Sofia Coppola and stars Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi expressed disappointment the premiere could not go forward as planned at the Legion Theater, but said they respected IATSE’s decision to picket over unfair labor practices. The talent hoped a resolution could be reached so the venue could return to showcasing films.
- Financial records reviewed by THR reveal the extent of the America Legion Post 43’s internal turmoil. While the state-of-the-art theater has been successful, raking in over $1 million in revenue last year, the veterans’ club itself has struggled with mismanagement and lost over $500,000 in 2022 alone. Allegations have emerged of embezzlement and sweetheart deals for theater vendors connected to leadership.
- Former staff and members of the Legion Tell THR the internal dysfunction spilled over into the theater operations, with senior leadership vetoing certain films arbitrarily and denying pay increases to projectionists and hourly workers. Some see the IATSE dispute as symptomatic of larger issues plaguing the veterans’ organization.
What other movie screenings have been affected by the labor dispute?
- In early September, Warner Bros pulled a planned screening of its Oscar hopeful The Fabelmans from the Legion Theater just days before the event. The studio moved the cast and crew screening to the nearby Landmark Theatre instead, which utilizes union projectionists.
- Netflix canceled the LA premiere of its prestige drama All Quiet on the Western Front at the Legion, opting to have the red carpet at the Shrine Auditorium. However, Netflix still held the afterparty at Post 43 as planned. This angered IATSE leadership.
- A24 moved a screening of its indie hit Aftersun starring Paul Mescal from the Legion to the Motion Picture Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. The studio cited “the uncertainty of the venue’s availability” but IATSE called it an act of solidarity.
- Paramount Pictures also pulled a planned VIP industry screening of Top Gun: Maverick to show support for the union, despite Tom Cruise’s long relationship with the Legion Theater dating back to the original Top Gun premiere in 1986.
- Smaller distribution companies like Neon and A24 have vowed not to screen any films at the Legion until a new agreement is reached with IATSE Local 33. This has led to cancelled events for awards contenders like Triangle of Sadness and After Yang.
Investigative documents show multiple sexual assault allegations against a former general manager of the Legion Theater, who was fired in 2021 after 20 years overseeing operations. Former employees say leadership protected the veteran GM despite repeated complaints.