“Dune: Part Two,” the second half of a two-part theatrical adaptation of Frank Herbert’s first 500-page tome, has been pushed from Nov. 3, 2023 to March 15, 2024. Warner Bros. Discovery also delayed the release of “Godzilla x Kong: The Lost Empire” from the new “Dune 2” date to April 12, 2024. Since April 12 was originally the slot for the animated “Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim,” the animated action fantasy will now open on Dec. 13, 2024.
The release date shuffles — and shift of “Dune: Part Two” out of awards contention for this year — come as the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are still ongoing.
The choice to move Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” sequel was rooted in wanting the cast (Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Florence Pugh, Rebecca Ferguson, Austin Butler, etc.) to be able to participate in a global pre-release marketing campaign. Screenwriters and actors are currently forbidden from promoting their films due to the strikes.
Insiders noted that Warner Bros. Discovery stressed they were making individual decisions based on what they felt was best for each film. “Wonka,” (also starring Chalamet) “The Color Purple” and “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” still have December 2023 release dates.
Legendary and Warner Bros. Pictures mutually agreed to the four-month delay for “Dune: Part Two,” even with the sci-fi action sequel giving up six weeks of Imax exclusivity. With the spice flowing next year instead, the November Imax slate will center on Marvel’s “The Marvels” opening on Nov. 10.
However, Legendary can at least get its share of Imax play in 2024. “Dune: Part Two” will get at least two weeks in March. “The New Empire” will get at least a week (with more details sure to be finalized down the road) in April.
The first “Dune” earned rave reviews and won six Academy Awards while grossing a better-than-expected (on a COVID curve) $108 million domestic and $400 million worldwide. Sans the COVID variables, with an exclusive theatrical window (no Project Popcorn this time) and earned goodwill from the first installment, it was expected that the sequel would become a no-caveats-required global smash. Needless to say, this date change moves it out of the 2023 Oscar race, which is good news for “Oppenheimer” and “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Heck, this could mean that WBD puts all its awards muscle behind “The Color Purple” and, yes, “Barbie.”
Prior MonsterVerse films like “Kong: Skull Island” ($568 million in 2018) and “Godzilla vs. Kong” ($470 million in 2021) performed quite well opening in pre-summer slots. Legendary can take comfort that the new date for the Adam Wingard-directed “Godzilla vs. Kong” sequel was prime real estate for China. The franchise remains one of the few still pulling its weight in the Middle Kingdom in 2023 as it was in 2018. “Godzilla vs. Kong” earned $188 million in 2021, above its three predecessors. That makes it the only Hollywood franchise outside of “Avatar” to have a sequel earn more in China in post-COVID times compared to a pre-COVID installment.
As for “The War of the Rohirrim,” this new date positions the animated “Lord of the Rings” offshoot for the same pre-Christmas holiday season where all six Peter Jackson-directed Middle-earth epics scored massive box office. Few are expecting a repeat performance, but a well-liked animated flick can certainly thrive over the holidays.
The choice to move “Dune: Part Two” may or may not lead to additional end-of-2023 delays as the labor stoppages seem no closer to ending. There is no word whether costly tentpoles like Paramount and Apple’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Disney’s animated “Wish,” Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games” prequel or the “Aquaman” sequel will also move to a post-strike release date.