“Challengers,” starring Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor, is the first major theatrical release to be delayed due to the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by Justin Kuritzkes, the romantic melodrama set in the world of professional tennis was scheduled for a world premiere in Venice on August 30 and a theatrical release on September 15. The MGM-distributed feature has vacated both dates, TheWrap has learned, setting a new theatrical release date of April 26, 2024.
Meanwhile, Edoardo De Angelis’ “Commander,” a drama based on the true story of World War II Italian naval officer Salvatore Todaro, has been chosen as the new opening night film at the 2023 Venice International Film Festival.
The shakeup highlights a new problem for Hollywood amid ongoing work stoppages, namely that movies like “Challengers,” which relied on their hottest actors to sell them, will now have to choose between a delayed release date (and in some cases a change in awards season goals), or releasing star vehicles without the on-screen talent doing interviews, profiles or videos online.
“Challengers” is a unique challenge, as the central hook is watching three glamorous young movie stars play tennis and fall in love, which meant that the core of the marketing campaign would be to see the trio be fun, sexy and smart in the midst of the advertising marathon.
The new release date will place it just before the start of the summer movie season, where it will likely serve as a counter-schedule alongside “Deadpool 3” or (pending the movie’s completion) whatever else ends in early May.
Zendaya has over 200 million followers across various social media platforms. He is ranked 23rd most followed people worldwide on Instagram. Whether or not online fandom translates to ticket sales, it’s better for Zendaya to promote her movie than not to.
Whether this means the release date delay floodgates are about to open remains to be seen. For what it’s worth, Disney just released a new trailer for “The Marvels” (due Nov. 10) and Lionsgate just released a new poster for “The Expendables 4” (due Sept. 22).