The release delays were expected as Warner Bros. aims to give “Tenet” more room to breathe at the box office.
Warner Bros. has shifted the final leg of its 2020 release calendar by moving Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman 1984” to December 25, 2020. Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” remains scheduled for December 18 (via Deadline). The “Wonder Woman 1984” shift was expected by many in the industry, including IndieWire’s box office expert Tom Brueggemann, after Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” got off to a so-so start at the domestic box office amid the coronavirus pandemic. While Warner Bros. announced a $20.2 million opening for “Tenet,” IndieWire estimated the figure was more in the $10 million range (click here for an explainer).
It had been reported that moving “Wonder Woman 1984” from October 2 would give “Tenet” the longer legs at the box office it needs, but the middling “Tenet” domestic opening proved that a staggered opening in the pandemic fails to create the kind of excitement that drives up grosses. Moving “Wonder Woman” from October to December might have less to do with helping “Tenet” and more to do with waiting for a time when stronger box office returns are likelier.
By skipping November, Warner Bros. also avoids a tentpole pileup against “Black Widow,” “Soul,” and “No Time to Die.” The studio has had success with launching comic book properties over the Christmas holiday thanks to the 2018 release of James Wan’s “Aquaman,” which earned over $1 billion worldwide to become the biggest entry in the DC Extended Universe to date.
Similar to “Tenet,” Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” sequel has gone through a multitude of release date changes. The movie was originally scheduled for release on December 13, 2019 before being moved up to November 1, 2019. The original “Wonder Woman” was a box office summer smash in 2017, so Warner Bros. then moved the sequel to June 5, 2020 in hopes of recapturing that seasonal magic. The coronavirus pandemic moved the sequel first to August 14, 2020 and then to October 2, 2020. The first “Wonder Woman” was highly dependent on the U.S. as 50% of its gross was domestic, so it’s important for Warner Bros. to maintain its theatrical release.
Villeneuve’s “Dune,” the highly anticipated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s legendary science fiction novel, has always been scheduled for release on December 18, 2020. Science-fiction franchises such as “Avatar” and “Star Wars” have thrived over the Christmas holiday, so the release date for “Dune” seemed like a smart play for Warner Bros. Both “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Dune” carry budgets way over $150 million, so it makes sense Warner Bros. remains committed to getting them into theaters like “Tenet” and not uploading them to a streamer like HBO Max (a la Disney and “Mulan” earlier this year).