‘Dune: Part Two’ Moves Against ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel As ‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’ Sequel Gets 2024 Date

Warner Bros. Discovery has announced a slight delay for WB and Legendary’s Dune part Two (don’t panic, it’s just a month later) and a firm release date for an untitled sequel to WB and Legendary’s Godzilla Vs. Kong. The latter made my 11-year-old quite happy (it’s his favorite Hollywood franchise), even if waiting two years (two weeks before Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse) will be tough. All we know is that A) it’ll again involve both King Kong and Godzilla and B) it’ll again be directed by Adam Wingard. They’ve already played the “Kong and Godzilla fight” card, but a halfway successful buddy cop/private eye team-up comedy starring Mr. Zilla and Mr. Kong (think The Nice Guys with kaiju) would probably make (slight exaggeration) a gazillion dollars. I’m not sure how you make such a film with two non-verbal protagonists. Fortunately, I’m not the screenwriter. And Dune is now in Thanksgiving, but it may be aiming for Christmas.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has delayed Denis Villeneuve’s second part of his two-part adaptation of Frank Hubert’s Dune from October 20, 2023 to November 17, 2023. That’s the official pre-Thanksgiving Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games slot, one that is currently occupied by the Rachel Zeigler/Tom Blyth-led prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Either Warner Bros. thinks that Francis Lawrence’s Coriolanus Snow origin story will only play to a (smaller than it was ten years ago) Hunger Games fanbase or they were playing chicken in the hopes that Lionsgate will bolt. Or… crazy theorizing ahead, WB is planning on moving Dune part Two to December of 2023. In a pre-Covid world, the best chance Dune had to break out (not just “good on a Covid curve” grosses on par with Alita: Battle Angel) was when it was positioned in December of 2020 as that year’s metaphorical Avatar/Star Wars/Lord of the Rings year-end fantasy spectacular.

However, before WB can pull the trigger on making Dune part Two, starring Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem and Christopher Walken, it must confirm that neither Paramount’s Star Trek 4 nor Walt Disney’s Star Wars: Rogue Squadron won’t be making their respective December 22, 2023 opening days. Considering both projects are in varying stages of development, I’d bet neither makes it across the finish line. So, either James Cameron miraculously finishes Avatar 3 in time for next Christmas or there is a tentpole-sized hole in the year-end slate. If this comes to pass, WB can move Chalamet’s Wonka to that November 17, 2023 slot (a family-friendly musical will do just fine over the Thanksgiving holiday) and perhaps send The Color Purple from December 20 to October 20 to better position it as an Oscar contender. Yes, the subtext is that Warner Bros. Discovery isn’t sitting on the theatrical sidelines next year.

Regardless, the pre-Thanksgiving fantasy slot is a strong place to open Dune part Two, especially if Lionsgate cuts bait and flees (maybe to Christmas, ironically). The question is whether a more theatrically friendly environment will allow Dune part Two to earn objectively solid grosses here and abroad or whether Dune earned about whatever it was going to earn ($108 million from a $40 million debut and $400 million worldwide) no matter the circumstance. That said, most critics and audiences liked Dune, and it won six Oscars to boot. History shows that if audiences like “part one of two” (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Avengers: Infinity War and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part I), they’ll show up in equal or greater numbers for “part two of two.” Even At World’s End earned “only” $964 million worldwide in 2007 compared to $1.066 billion for Dead Man’s Chest.

As for the new Godzilla/Kong movie, well, Godzilla Vs. Kong overperformed ($100 million domestic and $469 million worldwide) last year both compared to Godzilla: King of the Monsters ($110 million/$390 million) and in terms of Covid-era expectations. However, it’s also a prime example (*the* prime example?) of a movie that played better opening amid Covid than it would have in a non-Covid world as just another big tentpole (see also: Free Guy, Uncharted and, relatively speaking, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Top Gun: Maverick). And yeah, it was pitched (and produced) in a way to appeal to audiences (many newly vaccinated) that maybe weren’t all in on the MonsterVerse but wanted to watch King Kong and Godzilla beat the hell out of each other on an IMAX (or drive-in) movie screen. It’s an open question as to whether Godzilla Vs. Kong was a franchise saved or a bullet dodged. Still, my son will be first in line.

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