Timothee Chalamet Warner Bros. “Dun.”
LOS ANGELES – Warner Bros. has a sandworm-sized dilemma on its hands: keep the long-awaited fall release date for Dune: Part Two and risk the star-studded cast not promoting it – or promise it next year. could miss out on a dominant run on potentially lucrative premium movie screens.
As two Hollywood strikes continue, film writers and stars are not allowed to distribute their projects due to strike rules. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more likely it is that studios will delay releases as the production shutdown chokes the film’s release pipeline.
Already, several titles—including Ethan Cohen’s Drive Away Dolls, the sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and the Emma Stone-led Poor Things—have been pushed back to later dates due to the layoff. Dune: Part Two, the science fiction epic based on Frank Herbert’s seminal novel, may be the biggest title yet to move. After the Screen Actors Guild-Federation of Television and Radio Artists of America went on strike last month, there was speculation about the film’s November 3 release.
“Dune: Part Two” will be an important 2023 release for Warner Bros., following the overwhelming success of “Barbie” and with December’s “Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom” in doubt. The day and date are being released on the HBO Max streaming service (now just called Max). He was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, taking home six trophies.
After the pandemic restrictions on theaters are lifted, expectations are that “Dune: Part Two” will surpass the previous film’s global box office gross of nearly $400 million in 2021 with a budget of $165 million.
“One of the biggest and most anticipated films of the momentous and prestigious holiday season, ‘Dune: Part Two’ is one of Warner Bros.’ crown jewels.” year-end lineup and has a lot on its cinematic shoulders,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The Writers Guild of America has returned to the bargaining table with producers, but talks are slow.
Meanwhile, producers have not reached out to SAG-AFTRA, another striking union, to continue negotiations. SAG-AFTRA also pledged not to grant interim agreements to any WGA-covered productions produced in the United States, meaning those projects could not begin or continue filming or be promoted by active guild members if released.
There is a real fear that the labor struggle will be prolonged.
“I think it will be next year,” said Steven Schiffman, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and former executive director of National Geographic. “I think it’s going to be a really painful process.”
‘Dune’ or not ‘Dune’
One of the main problems facing Dune: Part Two is the cast’s inability to promote their film releases.
Typically, studios will begin marketing their films in earnest outside of trailers and posters six to eight weeks before the film’s release. These efforts often include the cast’s late-night talk show appearances, taped interviews and junkets, as well as international promotional tours.
If SAG-AFTRA can’t reach an agreement by mid-September, the sequel’s marketing campaign won’t be able to use its star-studded ensemble to promote the film.
Along with industry veterans Christopher Walken, Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista and Jason Momoa, the film stars four of Hollywood’s hottest young stars.
Zendaya, Timothee Chalamet, Florence Pugh and Austin Butler together have more than 200 million followers on Instagram and are trending faces on TikTok, Twitter and other social media platforms.
“Without that, they’re leaving out a big chunk of Gen Z going to see this movie,” said Alicia Reese, vice president of equity research at Wedbush Securities.
He noted that older moviegoers who are fans of the book and who saw the first Dune movie will flock to theaters, but younger audiences may miss the movie without the stars advertising it.
“To miss it, that’s hurtful,” Reese said, “But is that hurtful enough to not show the movie at all? Because if they move it, they really risk losing their prime IMAX spot.”
Premium format audiences such as IMAX, Dolby Cinema and ScreenX are increasingly important for blockbuster features such as recent hits Avatar: The Last Airbender and Oppenheimer. After the pandemic, viewers are more selective about which movies they go to see from home and prefer screenings with better picture and sound quality, even if the price tag is higher.
According to EntTelligence data, 15% of all domestic tickets sold in 2022 were for premium shows, with an average ticket price of $15.92. The average price of a standard ticket is $11.29.
If “Dune: Part Two” makes it to next year, it runs the risk of not finding a weekend or weekends where it can capture a significant portion of premium screens, or retain them for several weeks. his escape.
Furthermore, if it reaches its current date, other films may move, and it may find itself with limited competition and the ability to attract more audience attention.
“Every studio with a movie on the calendar is faced with similar dilemmas about how to deal with it,” Dergarabedian said.
It will still come in 2023 Disney and Marvel’s Marvel Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and the Ballad of Serpents,” Disney Animation’s “The Wish” AppleTV+ “Napoleon”. Warner Bros. also has other big titles: “Wonka,” the “Aquaman” sequel, and “The Color Purple.”
Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com, said: “There are practical arguments in favor of Dune: Part Two both moving and staying put. “For the health of the industry as a whole, I think the scales are still tipped in favor of staying in November.”
While “Barbie” and Universal’s “Oppenheimer” have brought in nearly a billion dollars at the domestic box office in the past month, the rest of the year is short on blockbusters, including the “Dune” sequel.
A lackluster fourth quarter could hurt exhibiting partners AMC, Cinemark and Regal, which is heavily dependent on new content.
According to Robbins, moving Dune: Part Two could prompt other studios to delay major releases until next year.
“Frankly, the second half of this year doesn’t need any more challenges to live up to the strong spring and summer we’ve seen at the box office,” he said.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.