Over the last few months, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, as one major Hollywood studio after another either pushed back all their major theatrical releases to next year (see: Disney, Universal, and Sony) or just outright refused to release any blockbusters at all (see: Paramount), one studio has steadfastly stayed the course with unblinking stubbornness: Warner Bros.
Sure the folks at the iconic Burbank studio lot did move around release dates, but they were the ones who insisted on pushing Christopher Nolan’s Tenet out to cinemas despite there not being an audience yet as theatres remained closed. And recently, when Warner Bros. delayed Wonder Woman 1984, not only did they give the superhero tentpole a Christmas Day 2020 release date, but they dropped it just one week after filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s hugely anticipated Dune adaptation as if there would be enough willing cinemagoers to make both massively expensive productions globally successful.
Well, Warner Bros. has finally blinked.
First reported by Collider, Dune is now apparently being pushed back from its 18 December 2020 release date by a whopping nine months to only hit cinemas on 1 October 2021. That is a huge delay! At the time of writing, the studio has yet to officially confirm this news, but this makes total sense.
The shocking news of yesterday was that in light of MGM/Universal delaying James Bond pic No Time To Die to April next year, Cinemaworld – the world’s second-largest cinema chain owner – would be closing hundreds of their venues in the UK and US. With those cinemas set to remain closed until well into 2021, that would have been a huge chunk of Dune’s market gone. That’s besides for key US states like New York and Los Angeles where cinemas hadn’t even opened yet to begin with.
Then there’s Tenet. This weekend past the sci-fi mind-bender crossed the $300 million mark globally. For a film that reportedly cost $200 million to make and would probably need to earn over $400 million to just start to break even once advertising/promo costs are included, that is a failure. There’s simply no other way to say it. What’s even more concerning though is that of that $300 million, only $45 million came from the US, the world’s biggest movie market. It’s also the world’s worst-hit country in terms of COVID-19.
On top of all of this, there’s the fact that even if this had been a normal year without a pandemic, Dune would still have been a risky prospect. Villeneuve is arguably the best young filmmaker in Hollywood at the moment, adapting one of the greatest sci-fi novels ever written, but Frank Herbert’s original story, first published in 1965, is not exactly a hot topic right now. Not to mention that while Villeneuve makes brilliantly creative, highly intelligent, and mature films steeped in character and storytelling, they are not exactly the type of popcorn blockbuster fare that draws in the masses. His Blade Runner 2049 is, simply put, a masterpiece. It was also a resounding box office flop.
There’s no way Warner Bros. wants a repeat of that. And with that in mind, a huge delay is the only sensible option here. As much as it sucks for those of us who had been dreaming of seeing Dune done right on the screen for years. Villeneuve was reportedly very supportive of the studio’s decision as he wants audiences to see this film on the biggest screens possible, the way he designed it. Hopefully, that level of normality would have returned by October next year. If not, we have bigger problems than a movie about giant worms.
Last Updated: October 6, 2020