Confirming rumors that had been circulating for weeks, distribution executives at Warner Bros. made it official on Thursday night that the studio would push back their upcoming release of DUNE: PART TWO from November 3, 2023, to March 15, 2024.
The highly anticipated sequel to Denis Villeneuve’s acclaimed film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Sci-Fi classic novel removes from the release schedule the most important remaining contributor to the 2023 box office. This is a significant blow to exhibitors worldwide, as they continue in their efforts to recover fully from the pandemic’s effects on moviegoing.
Villeneuve’s first DUNE feature in 2021 grossed over $400M worldwide at the box office, despite being released simultaneously in theatres and streamed on HBO Max. There has been even more optimism about the prospects for the sequel, given that there seemed to be relatively limited competition from other titles in November and that this would be an exclusively theatrical release.
Many were predicting that this year’s release would double the numbers from DUNE: PART ONE, and perhaps even cross over $1B at the box office. Alas, exhibitors will now have to wait until next year to see those benefits.
Warner Bros. must have concluded that active promotion by the A-list stars involved in the movie was essential to its success, not only for this individual movie but also in the studio’s efforts to create a multi-billion-dollar franchise for the long term. During the current actors’ strike in Hollywood, the SAG-AFTRA union has forbidden its members from being involved in promotional activities on their projects.
As of this moment, no other release date changes seem imminent for 2023 titles that remain on the calendar including THE MARVELS (11/10), WONKA (12/15), and AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM (12/20). However, it’s hard not to feel Déjà Vu from the pandemic days when it seems that every week brought a new announcement of a movie release being postponed.