Examining the ‘Rust’ tragedy from a business perspective, ‘Dune’ sequel is a go

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The film set of "Rust", where Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer and wounded a director when he discharged a prop gun, is seen from a distance, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S., October 23, 2021. Photo by Kevin Mohatt/Reuters

As authorities continue what could be a months-long investigation into the on-set shooting tragedy that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, those on the business side of things in Hollywood are wondering why Alec Baldwin was involved with “Rust” in the first place. 

Earlier this year, while talking about another small film he’d recently starred in, the actor and producer told The Hollywood Reporter, “I have six kids, I don’t want to work anymore.”

Working for a short time on a $6 million movie like “Rust” may be a great deal for Baldwin, but after his pay day, it’s possible not much money was left for the crew. 

Before the fatal accident, the crew of “Rust” had raised concerns about safety and the distance of their accommodations from the set. Six crew members walked off the set hours before Baldwin shot Hutchins with a gun he had been told was unloaded. 

The first assistant director told investigators he did not properly check the gun before handing it to Baldwin. 

Because Baldwin was also a producer on the film, he could face increased liability. 

In the case of the 2014 death of camera assistant Sarah Jones on the set of “Midnight Rider,” the director served jail time

It’s unclear whether anyone will face criminal liability or go to jail in this case. There’s also the potential for civil liability and producers may have to declare bankruptcy. 

Over at WarnerMedia, executives are cheering the success of “Dune,” which made $40 million in North American movie theaters during its opening weekend while it started streaming on HBO Max at the same time. 

That’s the largest opening for Warner Bros. this year, though the true winner may be Legendary, the company that financed 80% of the film and made the call to approve a forthcoming sequel. 

It’s unclear how much more the film could have made at theaters had it not also been available on HBO Max. Director Denis Villeneuve was not happy when WarnerMedia announced that all its 2021 films would be available on its streamer the same day they open in theaters. It’s possible that either Villeneuve or Legendary could stipulate in their contracts that the 2023 “Dune” sequel must have an exclusive theatrical window. 

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