In what was to be expected, Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros’ anticipated sequel Dune: Part Two from Denis Villeneuve is moving off its November 3 theatrical release to March 15, 2024, due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. The sequel based on the Frank Herbert novel also will play Imax on its new date. Don’t be surprised if Dune: Part Two fires off either at the Berlin Film Festival or SXSW in late winter/early spring.
Meanwhile, despite the rumors out there about Warner Bros further shaking up its December release calendar due to the strike, the studio’s current holiday tentpoles of Wonka (December 15), DC’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (December 20) and The Color Purple (December 25) will stick to their dates, even if the SAG-AFTRA strike still is lingering. Suspicions abounded when there wasn’t a trailer this summer for James Wan’s Aquaman 2 tagged to the theatrical release of Warner’s Barbie. Warners has heard from exhibition loud and clear that it needs these movies like air after the 2020-21 Covid closure. Theater circuits be working aggressively with the Burbank lot on promoting these pics on their social media channels, and to their loyalty club members.
Dune: Part Two is taking the date previously held by Legendary’s Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, which now moves to April 12. Scheduled on that date was New Line’s animated feature, Lord of the Rings: The War of Rohirrim, which has been pushed to December 13, 2024. Godzilla X Kong on its new date remains unopposed by any rival tentpoles. The only other movie dated on December 13 next year is Sony’s reboot of The Karate Kid. The Dune sequel also remains unopposed currently on its new March date.
It stands to reason that Dune: Part Two would get pushed. While the first Dune won six Oscars and was one of the highest-grossing movies during Covid with $402M WW, the pic’s box office prospects largely were truncated by a theatrical day-and-date release on Warner streaming service HBO Max. It was a move that greatly frustrated Dune financier and producer Legendary and well as its filmmaker. This time around, both Legendary and Warners are in lock-step on the release plans for Dune: Part Two.
The sequel has the potential to be another Star Wars and to build out a future franchise for both Legendary and Warners, and it needs the social media power of its young cast that includes Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh and Austin Butler to do that. The four of them together count north of 258M followers across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with Zendaya repping 71% of those alone on IG. Her unavailability during the actors strike was one of the prime reasons MGM pulled her spicy R-rated tennis romance movie, Challengers, directed by Luca Guadagnino, out of its Venice Film Festival premiere, and off its September release date for a late-April 2024 launch.
With the 2024 theatrical release schedule remains in peril due to the ongoing strikes, Dune: Part Two and Godzilla X Kong provide insurance to exhibition that the moviegoing rebound spurred from Barbie and Oppenheimer in 2023 will continue into the New Year.
Dune: Part Two lands on a prime weekend during Spring Break in advance of the Easter holiday frame of March 29-31. Dune: Part Two explores the mythic journey of Paul Atreides (Chalamet) as he unites with Chani (Zendaya) and the Fremen while on a path of revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family. Facing a choice between the love of his life and the fate of the known universe, he endeavors to prevent a terrible future only he can foresee.
What happens now that Dune: Part Two is out of 2023? Many were expecting a seismic shift in tentpoles out of 2023, but we hear that’s not the case. It’s possible that Disney/Marvel Studios’ sequel The Marvels, currently dated for Nov. 10 could move up to Nov. 3 and take advantage of the availability of Imax screens that are being left behind by Dune: Part Two. Moving up Marvels would also give it a longer play time on large format screens before Lionsgate’s prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes arrives on Nov. 17. Sony’s Marvel franchise starter, Kraven the Hunter, moved off its first weekend in October due to the SAG-AFTRA strike and hiked to Labor Day weekend 2024. Filling that vacancy is a wide break of Sony’s Gamestop meme comedy, Dumb Money, on Oct. 6.
Insiders say The Marvels is sticking to its date.
Another plus for Godzilla X Kong on its new date: the pic is apt to benefit from a release in China at that time with previous Legendary Monsterverse movies making a lot of green there, i.e. Godzilla ($77.6M in 2014), Kong: Skull Island ($168.2M in 2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters ($135.4M in 2019) and Godzilla vs. Kong ($188.7M in 2021).
Meanwhile, despite Dune: Part Two shifting to 2024, Imax still has enough tentpoles to generate planety of bank from for the remainder of 2023 including The Equalizer 3, Killers of the Flower Moon, The Exorcist: Believer, The Marvels, The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Wonka, Aquaman 2 plus more Oppenheimer and Barbie bookings in the near future.