'Dune' Reportedly Delayed Until Fall 2021, Signaling More Trouble for Movie Theaters

Dune is even further in future than fans thought. On Monday, Collider reported that Denis Villeneuve's new adaptation of the sci-fi classic has moved its release date from Dec. 18, 2020 to Oct. 1, 2021. The move is likely due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on movie release schedules throughout the year.

Dune is a massive project for Warner Bros., with an A-list cast, a huge budget and a massive intellectual property behind it. Given the poor box office performance of movies released amid the COVID-19 pandemic, premiering a movie like this now would likely lose the studios a huge potential profit. Dune stars Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård and Javier Bardem, and is adapted from one of the most beloved science fiction novels of all time, so it makes sense that the filmmakers are going out of their way to get the best release possible.

Still, the news is heartbreaking for fans who have waited decades to see Dune done justice on screen. The story began with a 1965 novel by the same name, written by Frank Herbert. It has been adapted for the screen before — once in a 1984 movie by David Lynch and once in a miniseries for the Sci-Fi Channel — but fans were confident that Villeneuve's take would finally do the book justice.

Several blockbuster movies of this caliber have been delayed recently following the lackluster box office performance of Christopher Nolan' Tenet. There have been ripple effects all throughout the industry — after the new James Bond movie No Time to Die was delayed last week, Regal Cinemas — the largest domestic movie theater chain in the U.S. — shut down all operations indefinitely.

Dune is also tied to other Warner Bros. releases, such as Wonder Woman 1984. That movie was moved to Christmas day of 2020, likely putting it too close to Dune for the studio's tastes.

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Many fans are calling on the studio to release the movie online, rather than on streaming services. Some are willing to pay more just to see the movie sooner, knowing that it is likely finished. Some studios have seen success with this model — Disney released Mulan on Disney+ for a $30 "premier access" fee, while other movies have hit SVOD services for a high price over the last few months.

Sadly, it seems like studios are still not willing to commit to this model for all of their big IPs. Dune is currently slated for release on Oct. 1, 2021, only in theaters. All six original novels in the series are available now in print, eBook and audiobook formats wherever books are sold.