‘Dune’ ditches 2020, while AMC commits to staying open

AP – The 2020 theatrical release calendar is getting even slimmer in the wake of the announcement that Regal Cinemas are temporarily closing, although AMC, North America’s largest theatre chain, said it will remain open.

Warner Bros said late Monday that its sci-fi pic Dune will now open in October 2021, instead of this December. The studio also pushed back The Batman to March 2022 and moved up its Matrix sequel to December 2021.

AMC Entertainment reiterated its commitment to stay open and cited a slew of upcoming new releases that it will be playing, including this weekend’s new films The War With Grandpa, with Robert De Niro, and Yellow Rose. Roughly 80 per cent of its United States (US) locations are currently open.

With the recent exit of the next James Bond film, that leaves a mere handful of big films set to still open in 2020: Pixar’s Soul, on November 20, Universal’s The Croods: A New Age, on November 25, Disney’s Death on the Nile, on December 18 and Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman 1984, at Christmas. It’s an extra hit to the ailing theatrical industry, which endured six months of closures and has had a difficult time restarting business during the pandemic with key markets like New York still closed and an ever-changing release calendar.

Universal Studios announced on Tuesday that the latest entry in the Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World: Dominion, is being pushed back a year until June 2022.

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in ‘Dune’. PHOTO: AP

Business has been so shaky that on Monday Cineworld Group Plc said it would temporarily close its 536 Regal Cinema locations in the US and 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse venues in the United Kingdom (UK) today. And last week leading groups representing movie theatres, movie studios and directors issued a dire plea to Congress for financial help for cinemas. They said nearly 70 per cent of small and mid-size theatres could face bankruptcy or closure without assistance.

AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a statement that the company’s agreement with Universal Pictures to shorten the theatrical window, “puts AMC in a position where we can open our theatres when others may feel the need to close”.

AMC, Aron said, will share in home video on demand revenues with Universal.

But even with new releases on the calendar for the remainder of the year, including high-profile independent and awards contenders like Nomadland and Regina King’s One Night in Miami, studios have made it clear that they are skittish about releasing their most expensive properties in such a muted North American box office landscape.

Warner Bros helped provide an early test case with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The film has grossed over USD307 million globally, but only USD45 million of that has come from North America, which is the world’s biggest box office market.

And although there are new films every weekend, back catalogue films are regularly claiming spots in the top 10. Just this weekend the 27-year-old Hocus Pocus claimed the number two spot and the 40-year-old Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back landed at number six.

Since Tenet, many studios have pushed at least one big film out of 2020, including Black Widow, No Time to Die and West Side Story. Other films vacated earlier, like Top Gun: Maverick and F9. And some studios have experimented by pivoting to video-on-demand releases, like Disney did with its live-action Mulan.