Dune is the latest movie to get pushed back to 2021, following a number of other highly anticipated blockbuster films, including Black Widow and No Time to Die. It’ll now be released on October 1st, 2021 — nearly a full year after the original December 18th release date, Collider and The Wrap have reported.
The Dune delay comes after Regal and Cineworld announced that it would be shuttering all of its theaters in the US and the UK, following the delay of No Time to Die last week. With more and more major films that were originally scheduled to debut this fall moving to 2021 due to concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there’s simply not enough new content for theaters to show right now.
Dune’s changed release date isn’t too much of a surprise, as studios are continuously trying to figure out the best time to release their biggest movies. Warner Bros. already delayed another of its movies, Wonder Woman 1984, from October to December 25th. Industry insiders assumed that with Wonder Woman 1984 moving to December, the same month that Dune was originally scheduled to be released, Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation would likely be punted to 2021.
That October 1st date is a bit confusing, though, given that Warner Bros. has already delayed a major 2020 film to that date: Robert Pattinson’s The Batman is already slated for the same day, meaning it’s likely that one of the two Warner Bros. blockbusters will be shifting again.
Warner Bros. is giving itself some wiggle room, though. When the studio premiered the first Dune trailer in September, the film’s release date was specifically left out. All the trailer said is “coming to theaters.” It seems like Warner Bros. learned from its experience with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which was delayed a few times leading to marketing kerfuffles.
Keeping dates out of trailers isn’t the only thing Warner Bros. learned from Tenet. The studio released the film internationally on August 26th, before bringing it to the United States and China on September 3rd. The film was only able to play in select cities and was kept out of key markets like Los Angeles and New York City. Tenet has only generated $36.1 million Stateside, but the film has seen much bigger success internationally, racking up more than $203 million. While that doesn’t make the film profitable for Warner Bros., it may be enough incentive to keep Wonder Woman 1984 in the December 25th spot, while moving Dune to a period when more people may be able to get to movie theaters.
Warner Bros. isn’t the only studio in this position, either. Disney has delayed many of its big films, including Black Widow. Scarlett Johansson’s standalone Marvel movie will now open on May 7th, 2021, instead of November 6th, 2020. This makes 2020 the first year without a Marvel Cinematic Universe film since 2009. As part of the delay, other Marvel titles like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and The Eternals are also delayed. Meanwhile, West Side Story and The King’s Man, two films Disney inherited from its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, also moved to 2021.
Is it fair to say that 2020 is mostly a wash for film studios? Sure. Only a handful of major blockbusters still remain on the theatrical schedule for this year, including Wonder Woman 1984, Free Guy, Pixar’s Soul, and Death on the Nile. Some films have performed well via digital rental platforms — Trolls World Tour allegedly made $100 million for Universal — but for the most part, executives are hopeful 2021 will be a much better year.