In a major change to the November box office calendar, Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated Dune: Part Two has been pushed to next year amid the ongoing actors strike, which prevents stars from promoting their projects.
Legendary and Warner Bros.’ big-budget sequel was slated to open Nov. 3 in North America timed to its global rollout, but will instead debut domestically on March 15, 2024. In a twinned move, Legendary and Warners pushed back Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire one month to April 12, 2024 (it previously was set to open on Dune‘s new March 15 date).
More from The Hollywood Reporter
Lastly, pushing the next Godzilla installment resulted in relocating New Line and Warner Bros. Pictures Animation’s Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim from April 12, 2024, to Dec. 13, 2024. (New Line’s live-action LOTR tentpoles were a December staple.)
Dune 2 becomes the biggest casualty to date in terms of the strike’s impact on the 2023 theatrical release calendar, and isn’t great news for theater owners. But the impact could have been far worse. Tellingly, Warners is keeping its three big December movies on the calendar: Wonka (Dec. 15), Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (Dec. 20) and The Color Purple (Dec. 25).
Insiders say Warner Bros. is committed to theatrical, and after the upheaval of the pandemic, it is hesitant to move things wholesale, even amid the uncertainty of the dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.
A movie like Dune, which boasts a star-packed cast led by Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, would be challenged in terms of fulfilling its full box office potential without a strong global publicity push by talent. Legendary, home of the high-profile sequel, made the decision in tandem with Warners, its distribution partner. An awards campaign would likewise be problematic.
Newcomers joining the Dune franchise include Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Christopher Walken and Léa Seydoux. Returning castmembers include names such as Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista and Charlotte Rampling.
Insiders say Legendary couldn’t wait anymore before pulling the plug, considering that Warners would have needed to begin marketing Dune 2 in earnest by early September. Insiders are hopeful that the additional time will allow the cast to participate in a worldwide marketing push as originally intended. The film’s new release date will be supported with a full-fledged Imax release. March is a prime corridor to launch event pics, thanks to spring break and the ensuing Easter holidays.
Released in 2021, Villeneuve’s Dune grossed more than $402 million at the worldwide box office, a solid and promising number considering pandemic pressures and the fact that it was released simultaneously on HBO Max. The sequel hopes to be an even bigger draw for a variety of reasons.
“Part One is more of a contemplative movie. Part Two is an action-packed, epic war movie. It is much more dense. We went to all new locations,” said Villeneuve at CinemaCon in April. “I didn’t want a feeling of repetition. It’s all new sets. Everything is new.”
Best of The Hollywood Reporter