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No Zendaya, No Movie Premiere as Challengers Bows Out of Venice Film Festival and Heads to 2024; Will Dune 2 Follow?

With no end in sight to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike that has prevented actors from promoting their work in studio projects, MGM and Amazon Studios have decided to push the release of Luca Guadagnino‘s Challengers to 2024 and pull the Zendaya-led sports movie from its Opening Night slot at the Venice Film Festival.

Zendaya stars as a former tennis prodigy-turned-coach who finds herself caught up in a love triangle between two pro players, played by Mike Faist (West Side Story) and Josh O’Connor (The Crown). The film had been slated for release in the U.S. on Sept. 15 following its Venice bow on Aug. 30, but it will now hit theaters on April 26, 2024.

Venice will now open with Edoardo De Angelis‘ Italian film Comandante starring Pierfrancesco Favino, who plays an Italian submarine captain during WWII who saved 26 enemy sailors after ordering his men to sink their Belgian ship.

While Comandante actually sounds pretty good, it lacks the star power of Challengers, which is the number one thing that movie has going for it. It’s certainly understandable that MGM/Amazon wouldn’t bring the film to Venice without Zendaya, as she’s the entire reason that the studio made it in the first place.

Meanwhile, the longer the Actors Strike continues, the greater jeopardy that the fall release calendar is in, and that includes Dune: Part Two starring Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, and Austin Butler. Variety reported on Thursday night that Warner Bros. is seriously considering moving the release of Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune sequel, though ultimately, Legendary would have to sign off on any such move. The thinking is similar, however — why roll out a movie with big stars if those big stars aren’t allowed to promote it.

A shift in Dune: Part Two‘s release strategy would certainly have reverberations across Hollywood’s release calendar — and Warner Bros.’ slate in particular, as Variety also noted that the studio is considering shifting its late-December releases Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and The Color Purple, though the latter would be the studio’s best awards contender should Dune be delayed. Would WB really punt on an awards season that seems fairly wide-open?

If one thing’s clear, it’s that Chalamet’s other movie, Wonka, appears to be firmly on track for its early December release, as the SAG-AFTRA strike is expected to be resolved by then.

Stay tuned for more updates on WB’s 2023 schedule as well as the 80th edition of the Venice Film Festival, which will run from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9.

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