‘Dune’ Trailer Rollout Continues Warner Bros.’ Buzzy Strategy of Theater-Only Teasers

The first "Dune" teaser will screen exclusively in theaters ahead of "Tenet," followed by an online trailer launch in September.
Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. has announced the official trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” will world premiere online Wednesday, September 9 at 12pm ET, but that won’t be the first time footage from Villeneuve’s science-fiction epic gets released into the public. A brief “trailer date teaser” for “Dune” will be rolled out exclusively in theaters attached to prints of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” first in global markets on Sunday, August 30 and then in the U.S. beginning Monday, August 31.

The premiere of “Dune” footage via a theaters-only teaser trailer is nothing new for Warner Bros., a studio that is quickly making a habit out of rolling out its tentpole trailers by teasing them exclusively in theaters first. The “Dune” teaser being attached to “Tenet” is something of a full circle moment as it was just one year ago when Warner Bros. stirred up buzz by releasing a theaters-only “Tenet” teaser ahead of select screenings of “Hobbs & Shaw.”

The August 2020 “Tenet” teaser ran only a minute, but it included the first footage of John David Washington as The Protagonist and teased the film’s time-slipping storyline long before an official trailer confirmed that “time inversion” was central to the “Tenet” storyline. Christopher Nolan is a champion of the theatrical moviegoing experience, so it made sense when Warner Bros. debuted the first “Tenet” teaser in theaters and never uploaded it online. Nolan fans had to wait until December for a proper first trailer to debut online.

However, the “Tenet” theaters-only trailer premiere was not exclusive to Nolan. Warner Bros. rolled out its Margot Robbie-led Harley Quinn tentpole “Birds of Prey” in similar fashion. The first “Birds of Prey” footage was in a teaser exclusively attached to theatrical prints of “It: Chapter Two,” which opened in September 2019. DC fans had to wait until October for the proper “Birds of Prey” trailer to premiere online.

Warner Bros.’ decision to release teasers exclusively in theaters is two-fold: It creates buzz not just for the movie being teased, but also for the release of the movie the teaser is attached to. Putting an exclusive Denis Villeneuve teaser in front of the new Christopher Nolan movie makes seeing “Tenet” in theaters a double win for cinephiles, although fears over movie theater safety complicate matters.

“Dune” is Warner Bros.’ big Christmas tentpole with a December 18 release date. The project is Villeneuve’s follow-up to “Blade Runner 2049” and features an ensemble cast that includes Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin, among others.

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