When the incredible first trailer for Dune dropped last night, I made an ominous observation: There was no release date. For the big show and spectacle that Warner Bros. made about finally showing us this movie, you would think the studio would actually confirm when we would get to see it. However, just a few hours later, reports started emerging that could explain it all.
According to Deadline, WB is possibly looking at pushing back Wonder Woman 1984 from its current 2 October slot for a late December release window. The problem is, Dune was supposed to hit screens on 18 December, which means it will then get bumped into 2021 – possibly even all the way to the mid-year Summer blockbuster season. And it’s all Christopher Nolan’s fault! Well, his and COVID-19.
When Nolan and WB decided to forge ahead with the release of Tenet – the acclaimed filmmaker’s new sci-fi blockbuster – despite so many cinemas around the world still being closed due to the pandemic, it was seen as a great experiment as to whether the industry was ready to bounce back. But while not an abject failure, the experiment hasn’t been a success either. The joy of a much larger than expected international debut was tempered by a lukewarm reception in the US and China – the world’s two largest movie markets – this weekend past. And, in fact, it’s now emerging that the $20.2 million domestic opening reported by WB may have been even more tepid than initially thought as the studio held back the breakdown of that number until recently. Turns out that total included not just the Labor Day holiday weekend earnings, but also advanced previews that had been playing in North America for up to a week before.
As Tenet currently stands, it’s earned just north of $150 million. That’s no small sum, but it’s also very long way off from breaking even with the film’s $200 production budget. Add in marketing/distribution costs and some Hollywood economics, and WB would probably be looking at around $400 million to even start feeling comfortable. There’s no way Tenet is making that currently. Not unless it hangs around in cinemas for a very, veeeeery long time with no competition.
And that means taking Wonder Woman 1984, another $200 million production, out of its way for as long as possible. Maybe not too long though. There are also rumours that Disney is now looking to hold back Black Widow from its scheduled 6 November release. With key US states such as New York and Los Angeles having not even opened their cinemas fully yet, all studios are reconsidering their release windows. If Disney does push out the Marvel Studios release, it may give WB a slot to slip Wonder Woman 1984 into. Would that mean keeping Dune in 2020 then? Your guess is as good as mine.
WB rolled the dice on Tenet while fully aware that it could take a huge loss on the film. Would the studio be willing to triple down on that gamble for all three their biggest releases in 2020? This year has seen much crazier things transpiring, so I won’t put it past the studio. The safer bet though would be to just write 2020 off entirely and try again next year.
Last Updated: September 10, 2020