The Spice

Dune release date delay could ruin the movie — or save it

Brace yourself for spicy spoilers in September.

If you’re waiting to see Denis Villeneuve’s Dune on HBO Max or in a U.S. theater, you may be waiting a little bit longer than previously expected.

After previously being delayed by a year, Dune’s stateside release date has been moved back from October 1 to October 22, according to multiple sources. And while this will sting for Dune fans, a delayed US release date could in the long run be the right move for Dune as a franchise.

In fact, given one detail about this release date change, the chances of a Dune sequel seem to have improved Possible mild spoilers ahead. Speculation follows.

According to Variety, the US release date for Dune is now October 22. Presumably, this means the film will also hit HBO Max on October 22 and not the first day of the month, as previously announced. Given that a second trailer is rumored to be arriving later this month, the new US release date could be further confirmed at any moment.

Assuming the US release date has been moved back, that impacts the future of Dune in two ways: one immediate, one long-term. Here’s what to expect.

Dune spoilers will be hard to avoid

On top of the fact that the source material is 56 years old, specific spoilers for this adaptation of Dune may become a fact of life starting in September. Before its wide international release, Dune will debut at the Venice Film Festival on September 3.

After that, the European theatrical release date for the film is September 15. With a US release date of October 22, that means US audiences are looking at more than a month between Dune’s international release and its stateside bow. If Dune fans were hoping to avoid spoilers with the new film, they can expect to spend up to a month being very, very careful on the internet.

Case in point: a new Dune trailer has already appeared on a Japanese Dune Twitter account. (In Japan, it looks like the release date is October 15, earlier than the new US date.)

Arguably, this early international release will be difficult for US Dune fans, but the benefit for the Dune franchise as a whole is much more important.

House Atreides prepares to face the world.Warner Bros.

Dune’s international box office is critical

The story of how much money Dune makes at the box office will almost certainly determine whether or not a sequel materializes. When its simultaneous HBO Max/theatrical release plan was announced, director Denis Villeneuve exploded and penned an op-ed saying, “Warner Bros. may have just killed the Dune franchise.”

Villeneuve’s argument was clear: If Dune streams at the same time it hits theaters, that will hurt box office numbers. And if box-office numbers are low, then WB’s willingness to do a sequel would likely be diminished. Most reports indicate that the new film only adapts half of the first Dune novel by Frank Herbert, and some sources suggest that the new Dune demands a sequel to complete its story.

If Dune is out for a month internationally before it hits HBO Max, it’s conceivable that a healthy international box office would make a poor showing at the US box office less meaningful when it comes to the sequel question. In other words, if Americans are the only people not paying to see Dune in theaters, a healthy global box office return could save the Dune franchise.

To speculate further, the other upside of Dune being out globally for an entire month before it hits the US is that this gives more time for buzz around the film to build. Because the release date has been moved so many times, the hype machine for Dune is currently a slow burn. If film critics in Europe and Asia give Dune spicy-good reviews, then Americans might be primed to pay for it by the time Dune hits theaters and HBO Max on October 22.

Granted, some of this might just be wishful thinking. But if we’re going to get a Dune sequel after this first film, the fledgling franchise needs more than luck. Fear might be the mind-killer, but when it comes to big box office numbers, fearing a flop might be well-founded.

Dune hits HBO Max and theaters in the US on October 22, 2021.

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