SAG Members Protest Loss of Freebie Perk

Members of the Screen Actors Guild have launched a grassroots campaign to leave ballots blank in film categories while voting for SAG Awards, Variety reports, as a protest.

SAG constituents are reportedly upset at a decision by movie theater owners to withdraw their free-admission benefits during the awards season.

Actor Brian Hamilton, who got the campaign under way through his Web site,, said, “This is a slap in the face to SAG members. So leaving the film part of the ballot blank is an appropriate protest.”

According to Variety, SAG warned members last week that some exhibitors were no longer accepting paid-up SAG cards for free admission to nominated films, a practice that had long been followed by theater owners.

“People have to understand this is a financial decision between exhibitors and studios,” SAG spokeswoman Ilyanne Kichaven said. “Since members were admitted free in previous years, they had become accustomed to the practice.”

SAG said it was trying to persuade the chains to soften their stance on the issue.

While SAG’s 98,000 rank and file members had to shell out a few bucks at the movie theaters, the same did not apply to the union’s nominating committee. All 2,100 members were allowed into screenings before film nominations in five categories were announced Jan. 28. All SAG members, however, vote on the nominations.

Members of Hollywood’s writers and directors guilds, meanwhile, have not lost their free admission perks since their numbers are overshadowed by SAG’s 98,000-strong contingent.

The SAG Awards will be presented Sunday, March 9 at the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center and telecast on TNT.