Saturday, May 18, 2024

‘Dune: Part Two’ Eyes Possible Spring Date, ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ To Delay: Box Office – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: Despite all the champagne popping at Warner Bros and Universal over the bananas box office success of Barbie and Oppenheimer, distribution executives continue to sweat over a possible lengthy SAG-AFTRA strike that is already blowing up the fall release calendar. We told you first last week this was going to happen. Many want their stars to promote these films.

Sources tell me that studio executives are hoping to huddle with the National Association of Theatre Owners in an effort to get the word out to SAG-AFTRA how a lengthy strike could really do damage, not just to the motion picture business but also to exhibition itself after cinemas ate dirt during Covid. The news comes as No. 1 theater chain AMC is running out of cash; cinemas can’t go through this again.

We told you that Oscar-bait adult-demo titles that squarely hinge on actors’ promotions are the first titles to move off the calendar, which we saw immediately with MGM’s Challengers, starring Zendaya and directed by Luca Guadagnino, last week heading from September 15 to the last weekend of April (and out of its Venice opening-night premiere). To date, it’s the only major studio movie to be pulled from a festival.

Focus Features’ Ethan Coen road comedy Drive-Away Dolls, I hear, won’t be making its way to the fall film festival troika of Venice, Toronto and Telluride. Festivals have expectations for talent to show up, and in the case of Drive-Away Dolls, Coen is a co-writer too and the WGA strike is also ongoing. Focus’ The Holdovers and Sony’s Dumb Money can have their directors, Alexander Payne and Craig Gillespie, respectively, do press at TIFF as they aren’t billed as writers on their films.

While Searchlight’s Emma Stone-Yorgos Lanthimos bender Poor Things dodged from September 8 to December 8, even with a starless Venice Film Festival premiere, note the studio has launched big pics at Venice before for awards season and rode that wave to an early December launch, i.e., 2010’s Black Swan.

Separately, Drive-Away Dolls is eyeing a move off its September 22 release date, largely because it’s dated against the awards-bait title Dumb Money, which will have the gas of TIFF behind it. New date for caper movie starring Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal is TBD; if you glance at the Comscore calendar, Focus has October 6 on hold for an untitled feature.

Now what’s up with Legendary/Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two? We told you it wouldn’t be shocking if the feature moved off its golden November 3 theatrical release date. Denis Villeneuve got stiffed with WarnerMedia’s theatrical day-and-date experiment, which prevented the movie from being the Star Wars blockbuster it could have been; the pic still is one of the highest-grossing movies of the 2021 pandemic at $402 million worldwide and notched several Oscar wins.

As of today, Dune: Part Two is not moving, but if Zendaya with her 200 million social media followers can turn Challengers into a counterprogramming success, she can certainly help in trumpeting the feature take of the Frank Herbert novel. Of course, it stands to reason that Villeneuve and Legendary are going to wait this sci-fi spectacle out; why would they allow it to become distribution collateral damage again?

I hear Legendary, which is in the pilot’s seat here on the pic’s fate, is in wait-and-see mode and has until September before Dune 2‘s next leg of marketing has to go.

If Dune: Part Two moves, where does it go? I hear there are three spring options, and you just have to look at the release calendar: March, April or a break in the summer connected to a possible Cannes Film Festival launch. Warners already has the following dates on hold in regards to where Dune: Part Two could go: March 15, where Legendary has its next Godzilla/King Kong movie; April 19, which they have on reserve for an event title; or June 21, an untitled open slot for the Burbank lot.

But again, if the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA see eye-to-eye by Labor Day weekend, Dune: Part Two could stay exactly where it is on the calendar.

What about Wonka (December 15), Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (December 20) and The Color Purple (Christmas Day) moving to 2024? Still way too soon to call. but if these tentpoles are vulnerable to changes, so are others.

At this point in time we’re hearing there’s no truth to Apple Original Movies’ Killers of the Flower Moon (October 6) and Napoleon (November 22) getting qualifying theatrical runs over a wide release. Their theatrical distribution is being handled by Paramount and Sony, respectively.

Legendary and Focus Features provided no comment on today’s news.

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