Timothée Chalamet stars in Warner Bros.’ “Dune.”

Warner Bros.

LOS ANGELES – Warner Bros. faces a dilemma like sand: Keep the release date for its highly anticipated “Dune: Part Two” in the autumn and risk its star-studded cast not promoting it — or making it Put it off until next year and you could miss out on a potentially lucrative premium movie screen performance.

As two strikes are underway in Hollywood, film writers and stars are not allowed to promote their projects due to strike regulations. The longer work is halted, the more likely studios will delay releases as the production shutdown will disrupt the film release pipeline.

Already, a handful of titles — including Ethan Coen’s “Drive Away Dolls,” the “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” sequel, and the Emma Stone-led “Poor Things” — have been moved to later dates because of labor disruptions. went. “Dune: Part Two,” a science fiction epic based on original novel by frank herbertCould become the biggest title to move. Speculation heats up about dropping the sequel’s November 3 slot after the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists went on strike last month.

After the resounding success of “Barbie” and with growing skepticism about December’s “Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom,” “Dune: Part Two” will be an important 2023 release for Warner Bros. Its predecessor excelled at the box office despite the pandemic. Day-by-Day is being released on the streaming service HBO Max (now called Max). It garnered 10 Academy Award nominations and took home six trophies.

With pandemic restrictions on movie theaters lifted, there are expectations that “Dune: Part Two” will surpass the previous film’s nearly $400 million gross at the global box office in 2021 on a reported budget of $165 million.

“As one of the biggest and most anticipated films of the all-important and iconic holiday season, ‘Dune: Part Two’ is one of the crown jewels of Warner Bros. A lot rests on the year-end lineup and its cinematic shoulders,” said comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

While the Writers Guild of America has returned to the bargaining table with the producers, talks are moving slowly.

During this, The producers have not contacted other striking guilds, SAG-AFTRA to resume talks. SAG-AFTRA also pledged not to grant interim agreements to any WGA-covered productions produced in the US, meaning these projects could not begin or continue filming or be promoted by active guild members upon release. Can

There is also a real fear that the workers’ fight will be prolonged.

“I think it will last into next year,” said Steven Shiffman, assistant professor at Georgetown University and former National Geographic executive. “I think it’s going to be a really painful process.”

To ‘Doon’ or not to ‘Doon’

One of the major hurdles faced by “Dune: Part Two” is the inability of the actors to promote the film release.

Typically, studios will begin seriously marketing their films, beyond trailers and posters, six to eight weeks before a film’s release. These efforts often included late-night talk show appearances by artists, taped interviews and junkets, as well as international promotional tours.

If SAG-AFTRA does not reach an agreement by mid-September, the marketing campaign for the sequel will not be able to use its star-studded ensemble to promote the film.

Along with industry heavyweights Christopher Walken, Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista and Jason Momoa, the film stars four of Hollywood’s hottest young stars.

Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh and Austin Butler collectively have over 200 million followers on Instagram and are trending faces on TikTok, Twitter and other social media platforms.

“Without that, they leave a huge chunk of Gen Z wanting to see that movie,” said Alicia Reese, vice president of equity research at Wedbush Securities.

He added that older moviegoers who are fans of the book and have seen “Dune” for the first time will flock to the theatres, but the younger audience may miss out on watching the film without the promotion of these stars.

“Ignoring that, it’s damaging,” Reese said, “but is it damaging enough not to show the film at all?” Because if they move it, they really risk losing the prime IMAX spot.

Premium Format Auditorium Like IMAX, Dolby Cinema and ScreenX are becoming increasingly important for blockbuster features, such as recent hits “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Oppenheimer.” After the pandemic, audiences have become more selective about which movies they step out of the house to watch and are opting more for screenings with better picture and sound quality, even if the price is higher.

Over 200,000 people bought tickets for the Oppenheimer-Barbie double feature

According to Entelligence data, 15% of all domestic tickets sold in 2022 were for premium screenings, with an average ticket price of $15.92. A standard ticket costs $11.29 on average.

If “Dune: Part 2” moves into the next year, it runs the risk of not getting a weekend, or multiple weekends, where it will be able to capture a significant portion of premium screens, or to keep them for several weeks. won’t be able to. It’s running.

Additionally, if it stays on its current date, other films may move in and it may find itself with limited competition and the potential to attract more viewers.

“Every studio with a film on the calendar is facing similar dilemmas of how to deal with it,” said Dergarabedian.

yet to come in 2023 disney and Marvel’s “The Marvels,” Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” Disney Animation’s “Wish,” Apple TV+ of “Napoleon.” Warner Bros. also has other big titles in the pipeline: “Wonka,” the “Aquaman” sequel and “The Color Purple.”

Sean Robbins, principal analyst at BoxOffice.com, said, “There are practical arguments, both ongoing and made, in support of ‘Dune: Part Two’.” “As for the health of the industry overall, I think the scales are still in favor of staying put in November.”

Whereas “Barbie” And Universal’s “Oppenheimer” has pumped nearly a billion dollars into the domestic box office coffers in the past month, with some blockbuster releases lined up for the remainder of the year, among them the “Dune” sequel.

Poor fourth quarter movie slate could hurt exhibition partners AMC, Cinemark and Regal who relied heavily on new material.

According to Robbins, pushing “Dune: Part Two” could possibly lead to other studios delaying the big release until next year.

He added, “Frankly, it doesn’t need a challenge to withstand the strong spring and summer we’ve seen at the box office in the back half of this year.”

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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