Could the release date of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two possibly change for a third time? An exclusive report from Variety posits that Warner Bros. is “strongly considering” such a scenario, where the movie would be pushed back to 2024—potentially spring, or early summer. This discussion surfaces amid two concurrent labor union strikes impacting Hollywood film, and other media, productions. On July 14, SAG-AFTRA (union representing actors and performers of the industry) commenced work stoppages, joining the already ongoing strike by Writers Guild of America.
In a Holding Pattern
To be clear, nothing has been decided at this point. The report indicates that said discussions are in early stages and internal to Warner Bros. I.e., Legendary Entertainment may not have received a formal proposal, as of mid-July. As co-producer of the Dune movies, they would have final say regarding a potential release date change.
Furthermore, Variety cited one source who stated that “releases are moving forward as originally planned.” That individual acknowledged, however, that the length of these strikes are “completely unpredictable.” This uncertainty is also driving Warner Bros. to review dates for releases even deeper into this year, including Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom and The Color Purple. Both movies are currently scheduled to premiere in late December.
According to a more recent update from Deadline, Legendary won’t be in a rush to take a decision. With next phase of the movie’s marketing not expected to kick-off until September, the production studio has time to carefully assess the developing situation with the strikes.
Marketing a Dune Movie, Without Its Cast?
With Dune: Part Two in advanced post-production and, as of now, scheduled to start premiering in theaters internationally from November 1, 2023, what would the effect be of a prolonged SAG-AFTRA strike?
In short, this would prevent members of the cast—counting high-profile newcomers Florence Pugh and Austin Butler—from participating in promotion for their movies, including ones where production has wrapped. As per the union’s strike policy, this includes not giving interviews or being photographed at events.
Yes, of course there would still be movie trailers, TV spots, posters, and billboards, etc. Issue is that the actors would not be actively involved. If Dune: Part Two were to have its world premiere during let’s say the Toronto International Film Festival, how would director Denis Villeneuve feel about not having any support from his cast? Would red carpet processions in London and Paris still make sense?
Following a strong $400M+ box office run (during the height of pandemic no less) and six Oscar Award wins for Dune: Part One, the science-fiction franchise is in a better place now when it comes to public awareness. At the same time, nobody can deny how effective the movie’s star-studded cast were—especially Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya—when it came to reaching new audiences.
Legendary Cancels Dune: Part Two Comic-Con Panel
Regardless of whether the release date actually changes or not, the SAG-AFTRA strike is already having an impact on the movie’s promotion. Last week, Legendary Entertainment cancelled its reservation for Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con. Although contents of the panel—scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 22—had not been announced, Variety confirmed that the studio was planning to present “surprise” first looks at Dune: Part Two and its next entry in the Monsterverse franchise, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.
Representing the former movie, stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya were expected to have made appearances. This panel would have marked the first presence of Dune: Part Two at a major public event, featuring members of its cast. Both actors had spoken at the Warner Bros. Discovery CinemaCon presentation, this past April, where press got an early look at the first trailer.
Zendaya’s Challengers Pushed Back
Now, just one week after commencement of the SAG-AFTRA strike, we’re already seeing movement in 2023 film slates at other studios. MGM production Challengers has shifted to April 26, 2024. The R-rated romance film, directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Zendaya, was originally scheduled for release on September 15. Its world premiere at this year’s Venice Film Festival was also cancelled.
What Are Potential Release Dates in 2024?
According to Deadline, there are three feasible dates that Dune: Part Two could be pushed back into. Earliest of those would be March 15, 2024, where the aforementioned Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is currently scheduled. That movie is currently in post-production, however may not keep its release date if there were to be wider shifts across the 2023-2024 slates.
Two other slots that Warner Bros. has already reserved are April 19 and June 21—where, as of now, no movies have been publicly announced. The latter date would leave Dune: Part Two well-positioned for a world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The 2024 event will take place from May 14-25.
Dune: Part Two Premiere, Proceed or Delay?
While there are multiple factors at play, the core question here is which option maximizes success for the second Dune movie: keep current 2023 release date, but without promotional support from its cast, or move into 2024? Latter would result in losing the momentum gained from two breathtaking trailers, in addition to incurring additional expenses.
For the moment at least, one can still hold on to a thread of hope that this decision—between two sub-optimal scenarios—won’t be necessary. Indeed, if SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) were to reach a new contract agreement by early September, everything could proceed as planned for the final months of the film’s promotion.
As of early-August though, a quick resolution to the actors strike looks increasingly unlikely:
We have not heard from the AMPTP since July 12 when they told us they would not be willing to continue talks for quite some time.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, speaking to Deadline
Dune News Net reached out to Warner Bros. regarding their perspective on a Dune: Part Two release date change. At the time of writing, there were no further updates.
(July 25) Added new information on decision timelines and potential 2024 dates, based on Deadline article.
(August 2) Added quote from SAG-AFTRA regarding negotiations not having resumed.