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

Timothee Chalamet (left) and Rebecca Ferguson appear in a scene from "Dune." Warner Bros. said late Monday that “Dune” will now open in October 2021, instead of this December.  PHOTO CREDIT: Chia Bella James

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 theater chain, says 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 its “Matrix” sequel by 8 months to late 2021 and “The Batman” to 2022.

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% of its U.S. 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 Nov. 20, Universal’s “The Croods: A New Age,” on Nov. 25, Disney’s “Death on the Nile,” on Dec. 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.

Business has been so shaky that on Monday Cineworld Group Plc said it would temporarily close its 536 Regal cinema locations in the U.S. and 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse venues in the U.K. on Thursday. And last week leading groups representing movie theaters, movie studios and directors issued a dire plea to Congress for financial help for cinemas. They said nearly 70% of small and mid-size theaters could face bankruptcy or closure without assistance.

AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a statement that the company’s agreement with Universal Studios 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.