June 10, 2023

‘Dune’ Movie Release Delayed — Will Mass Moviegoing Survive?

Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Dune. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

In April, I wrote the following:

In a time of much sadness and great tumult, certain things have provided me welcome solace. My faith, no weaker despite its temporary mediation, in some respects, through technology. My family, with whom I am currently living. Our home, a place of comforting familiarity to me. Continued digital interactions with family and friends I cannot be with at the moment.

And, of course, the promised release of Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune, which — as of right now — remains committed to its December 2020 release date.

This was in response to the first promotional materials for the new Dune adaptation. Since then, we got a trailer, whose confident declaration of a December theatrical release seemed bold and almost defiant amid such uncertainty.

Alas, it was not to be. News emerged today that Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have delayed the film’s release for almost an entire year, to October 2021. Perhaps stung by the lackluster box-office performance of the theatrical release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, Warner Bros. is only the latest studio to punt a wide release into next year. MGM/United Artists has also pushed the release of No Time to Die, the latest James Bond movie, into next year.

This leaves essentially no big-budget movie releases for the rest of the year. So it’s not surprising that Cineworld, which owns Regal Cinemas in the United States and also owns many theaters in the United Kingdom, has announced that it will shut down all of its movie theaters in both countries until next year. How movie theaters can really survive for that long is an open question. Even government action to keep them afloat wouldn’t address the possibility that people will get out of the moviegoing habit, having deemed home viewing comfortable, or at least acceptable. It may live on as only boutique phenomenon, a luxury sought out rather than a norm assumed. As with many other things, we’ll have to wait until next year to find out. And I’ll have to wait until next year to see Dune in a theater.

Jack Butler is an associate editor at National Review Online.

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