Actors’ Strike Delays Dune 2, Godzilla X Kong, and Lord of the Rings

As the actors’ strike continues, Warner Bros. is moving three of its tent pole movies: Dune: Part Two, Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, and The Lord of the Rings: The War of Rohirrim. According to Deadline, Dune: Part Two was scheduled to hit theaters on November 3, 2023, but will now be delayed until March 15, 2024, which was Godzilla X Kong’s previous release date; that movie will now take Lord of the Rings’ former spot on April 12, 2024, with the animated JRR Tolkien adaptation moving to December 13, 2024. Warner Bros. has three other major releases scheduled this year: Wonka on December 15, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom on December 20, and the remake of The Color Purple on Christmas Day, December 25; those films will stay put. This comes less than a month after IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond told investors on an earnings call that he was confident Dune: Part Two would keep its original release date in no small part because of the five-to-six-week commitment IMAX made to the movie, although he mentioned The Marvels as a backup.

Well, I guess the good news for those who were disappointed is that they’ll get to see Brie Larson glare at them on a screen several stories high. I’m disappointed about Dune: Part Two, and surprised they’re delaying it after that plum IMAX deal. Deadline likens the move to that of MGM’s Challengers, an upcoming tennis movie that will be released in April of 2024 instead of next month so that Zendaya can do publicity for it. Apparently, she’s got a huge Instagram following, and that’s how Hollywood is going to structure its marketing from now on. (“Here’s me and Tom at a Starbucks in Luxembourg; oh, and go see Dune.”) It’s funny, considering Gelfond mocked the idea of them delaying the movie just so Timothée Chalamet can make the talk show rounds; I wonder if Warner Bros. thinks these people are more famous than they actually are. The Deadline article mentions Chalamet, Zendaya, Florence Pugh, and Austin Butler, and only Zendaya and Pugh are anything approaching what I’d call a star. Pugh is a terrific actress, but I don’t think she draws much of an audience on her own, and Zendaya’s only hit movies weren’t hits because of her. (I didn’t even know she was in The Greatest Showman.)

I wonder if this is more about Warner Bros. spacing out their releases in case the strike goes on long enough to put a huge crimp in their long-form schedule; they’ve got three biggies coming out in the fall/winter, but what was coming after The Lord of the Rings: The War of Rohirrim in April? Now, they’ve got one in March, one in April, and one at the end of the year, which leaves their summer slate – Mad Max spinoff Furiosa, M. Night Shyamalan horror film The Watchers, and Twister sequel Twisters – intact, plus Beetlejuice 2 and Joker: Folie à Deux in the fall. That gives them some breathing room, especially since a few of those films are still in production – production that, presumably, is now on pause because of the strike. Unlike the writers’ strike, the actors’ strike has forced studios to adapt quickly, with shifting release schedules pushing a lot of highly-anticipated movies back. From what I’ve seen, the opposing sides don’t look like they’re close to settling the various disputes, and I tend to think the burden put on studios will have them digging their heels in on artificial intelligence even more to ensure they aren’t forced into this position again. (That’s not a value judgment; just reality.)

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