The Biggest Sci-fi Movie of 2023 is in Serious Trouble

The spice will no longer flow for Dune: Part Two — at least, not until 2024.

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Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Dune: Part Two
Warner Bros

The Dune saga just can’t catch a break.

Two years after a global pandemic curtailed a box office break for Dune: Part One, its sequel is facing another setback. Dune: Part Two was originally slated for a November 2023 release, but distributors at Legendary and Warner Bros. have pushed the film back to Spring 2024.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dune: Part Two will now hit theaters on March 15, 2024. The delay has also been accompanied by a later release of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, one month later to April 12, 2024.

The Dune: Part Two delay is a clear casualty of “union battles,” per Variety. The writers’ and actors’ guilds are currently on strike against studios and streamers; until a deal has been reached, Hollywood’s most anticipated projects could face unprecedented delays. This includes the films that have been completed and slated for release, as studios rely on their stars to promote these films.

Warner Bros. is clearly counting on big names like Zendaya to promote Dune: Part Two.

Warner Bros.

The WGA-SAG strike is one of the most contentious in history, and studios haven’t shown any signs of budging on the unions’ demands. That means this strike could last through the end of the year, and effectively cripple the studios’ holiday schedule. For Warners Bros. alone, that includes huge tentpoles like Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom and The Color Purple.

With the poor box office performance of Blue Beetle, the studio may decide to push its other 2023 releases into 2024. Dune and Godzilla x Kong are the first affected by this shift, but the former deals a devastating blow to the fans who’ve been awaiting the sequel for years. This could be exactly what WB is counting on, however: the longer the strike continues, the more public opinion may sour towards the actors and writers striking.

A theatrical exodus wouldn’t just hurt SAG and WGA, though: there’s also the struggling theater industry to think about. Audiences are gradually returning to the movies, thanks to Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Barbie, and Oppenheimer, but theaters are counting on a robust fall schedule to keep the momentum going. Without Dune in the fall lineup, that box office momentum may crumble.

Florence Pugh is just one of the stars joining Dune: Part Two.

Warner Bros.

But did WB actually need talent to promote Dune? This project could have easily stood well on its own. Dune: Part One might not have earned the blockbuster acclaim that WB expected, but it was still one of the highest grossing films in 2021 — a real feat, since the COVID-19 pandemic was still posing serious obstacles to the industry.

This could’ve been an opportunity for studios to let their big brand properties speak for themselves. But alas, it appears that studios are willing to sacrifice both the goodwill of fans and a surefire winner at the box office, to avoid making a deal with the unions as long as possible.

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