“Dune: Part Two” has departed the 2023 box office slate amid dual Hollywood labor strikes that threaten its ability to market to the public.
On Thursday, Warner Bros. Discovery and Legendary Entertainment announced the Denis Villeneuve film would move to March 15, 2024, taking the calendar spot from “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” which moves to April 12, 2024.
The shuffle also displaces the animated film “Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” to Dec. 13, 2024.
Box office analysts have long anticipated that the “Dune” sequel would ditch its 2023 release date amid the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes. Because of the SAG strike, in particular, actors are not permitted to promote current or even past films that were made by studios within the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
The AMPTP is currently in negotiations with the WGA and it likely won’t enter talks with SAG-AFTRA until that wraps up and a new contract is approved. While the scribes’ guild and the producers are a the table, talks are not moving quickly and therefore unlikely to resolve in enough time for “Dune: Part Two” to have its star-studded ensemble actively promote the film.
Alongside industry veterans like Christopher Walken, Stellan Skarsgard, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista and Jason Momoa, the film features four of Hollywood’s most popular young stars.
Zendaya, Timothee Chalamet, Florence Pugh and Austin Butler collectively have more than 200 million followers on Instagram and are trending faces on TikTok, Twitter and other social media platforms.
While older moviegoers who are fans of the book and saw the first “Dune” will show up to theaters, younger audiences might miss out on the flick without promotion from these stars.
Postponing “Dune: Part Two” might help bolster its box office gains in 2024, but will bite a chunk out of Warner Bros. Discovery’s 2023 haul.
After the stunning success of “Barbie,” and with doubts growing about December’s “Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom,” “Dune: Part Two” was an important 2023 release for the studio and expected to perform well with audiences.
Its predecessor excelled at the box office during the pandemic despite being a day-and-date release on streaming service HBO Max (now just called Max). It racked up 10 Academy Award nominations, taking home six Oscars.
With pandemic restrictions lifted on movie theaters, expectations are that “Dune: Part Two” would outpace the nearly $400 million the prior film tallied at the global box office in 2021 on a reported budget of $165 million.
Taking over “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” the “Dune” sequel should maintain access to the majority of premium format screens, like IMAX, and benefit from consumers who have increasingly gravitated toward these unique, and more expensive, theatrical experiences.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is a member of the AMPTP.
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