As Hollywood prepares for a fall movie season filled with uncertainty caused by the ongoing Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes, Warner Bros. Discovery has officially delayed several of its biggest upcoming blockbusters.
The studio, in partnership with Legendary, has announced that Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part Two” will not be hitting theaters on its original November 3 release date, and has instead been pushed to March 15, 2024. It takes the release date previously occupied by its other title with Legendary, “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” which will now open on April 12, 2024. As a result, the animated “Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” is being moved from April 12 to December 14, 2024.
The move takes “Dune: Part Two” out of the 2023 Oscar race (and likely makes a 2024 campaign more difficult), but places it closer to the beginning of the summer blockbuster season. As a source close to Warner Bros. pointed out, many lucrative blockbusters have launched in March in recent years including “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Hunger Games.”
“Dune: Part Two” boasts a star-studded cast including Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Austin Butler, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgård, Rebecca Ferguson, Christopher Walken, and Zendaya (who has a much bigger presence in the second half of the story after making a glorified cameo in “Dune: Part One”). Promotion from A-list performers is one of the $125 million film’s biggest selling points, so it’s unsurprising that a studio would hesitate to release it during a strike. The move will also give Villeneuve more time to edit the film, as recent rough cuts have been rumored to stretch over three hours.
“Dune: Part Two” was filmed entirely on IMAX cameras and planned a major rollout in IMAX theaters this fall. However, an IMAX source indicated that the company does not expect the move to impact its 2023 revenue due to the ongoing success of “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” (“Barbie” will be in IMAX with extended scenes starting September 22) and a strong fall slate including “The Marvels,” “Wonka,” and “Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”
Appearing at CinemaCon to promote the film in April, Villeneuve teased that “Dune: Part Two” would expand on the epic foundation that he laid in the original film. The “Arrival” director promised that his sequel is a more “action-packed, epic war movie, much more bulk, much more dance.” The film will cover the second half of Frank Herbert’s novel, following Chalamet’s Paul Atreides as he begins to lead the Fremen alongside Zendaya’s Chani.
Additional reporting by Tom Brueggemann.