Why Kevin Costner’s New Movie Is One of the Biggest Gambles of 2024

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The summer of 2024 is bringing many exciting and new blockbuster films to theaters – ranging from famous IP projects like Deadpool and Wolverine and Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes to new and more fresh ideas such as John Krasinski’s If and David Leitch’s The Fall Guy, starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt. However, of the many movies set to release this summer season, there is one film in particular that represents a major roll of the dice for Hollywood – or, rather, two films.



HORIZON-AN-AMERICAN-SAGA-1

Horizon

Release Date
June 28, 2024

Studio
New Line Cinema, Territory Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros.

Kevin Costner’s Horizon: An American Saga is a two-film event that will hit theaters in the latter half of the summer, with the first chapter arriving on June 28th and the second opening less than two months later, on August 16th. This will mark the first time that Costner has returned to the director’s chair in over two decades, as his last directorial effort was 2003’s Open Range.

This two-part cinematic event is a passion project for Costner, who has personally financed much of the films’ hefty budget, going as far as mortgaging his own property in California to do so. There are a lot of factors working against Horizon, but there is also plenty to be optimistic about with the double feature. Here’s what we know:



Hollywood’s Evolving Relationship with Blockbusters

Over the course of the 21st century, we’ve seen Hollywood become increasingly reliant on massive blockbuster films driven by recognizable IPs. While the pinnacle of these efforts has been the countless comic-book movies to come from Disney/Marvel and Warner Bros./DC, this trend has also extended into many other franchises and genres. Some of the biggest films of the last 15 years have been the latest entries in major franchises like Star Wars, The Fast and the Furious, Avatar, The Lord of the Rings and more.


With that said, there has been a pretty noticeable shift in the box office throughout the early 2020s. While there have still been substantial franchise hits like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Avatar: The Way of Water and Jurassic World: Dominion, we have also seen a renewed desire for fresh and original ideas.

In 2023 alone, some of the biggest successes of the year were Barbie – which was clearly inspired by a famous brand but brought an original story and twist to it – and Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan’s three-hour, Best-Picture-winning biopic about the inventor of the atomic bomb.

The breakout success of films like Oppenheimer and Barbie coincides with one of the worst years for comic-book movies since the modern trend began back in the mid-2000s, as major entries like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, The Flash, The Marvels and Shazam! Fury of the Gods all crashed and burned at the box office.


Looking to this summer, the release schedule is primed for audiences to continue embracing films with new and refreshing ideas, with major releases like The Fall Guy, Furiosa, A Quiet Place: Day One and Twisters all ready to take off. Costner’s two-part Western epic also slots nicely into that release schedule, and it could easily become one of the breakout successes of the summer.

Related: 10 Kevin Costner Movies to Watch If You Love Yellowstone

Can Kevin Costner be a Movie Star in 2024?

Horizon is going to be a major test of Costner’s star power. He hasn’t directed a feature film in over two decades, and his box office pull has seemingly declined significantly from the heights that it was at throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s. While his filmography over the last 20 years does include box office hits like Hidden Figures and Man of Steel, those are films that he played a supporting role in rather than the lead.


When looking at films with Costner front and center, such as 2016’s Criminal, 2015’s McFarland, USA and 2014’s Draft Day, Costner has consistently not been able to bring in more than $50 million worldwide.

With that said, there is one major factor that could change Costner’s fortunes this summer: Yellowstone. For just over five years now, Costner has shifted away from films and instead been the star of one of the biggest shows on television. As the lead character of John Dutton in Yellowstone, Costner has experienced a major career revival.

Yellowstone has experienced the kind of success on television that many shows can only dream of, as Taylor Sheridan’s neo-Western drama series has continuously brought in outstanding and growing viewership numbers combined with consistently excellent reviews. This success has even been translated into two different spin-off prequels, 1883 (starring Sam Elliot, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill) and 1923 (starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren), with several others in active development.


Costner’s run with Yellowstone is coming to an end with the second half of the fifth season later this year, though, and Horizon is his first real attempt at transitioning that success back into a cinematic environment. Yellowstone has made headlines for how effectively it has built a dedicated audience with viewers in the Midwest and on the conservative-leaning end of the political spectrum – though its audience does expand beyond those confines – both of which are audiences that are becoming increasingly difficult for Hollywood to reach. When films that appeal to this demographic can connect though (as was the case with Top Gun: Maverick and last year’s Sound of Freedom), they can quickly become major breakout hits.


The question still remains if Yellowstone’s audience is willing to follow Costner back to the cinema with Horizon. There is some doubt about this, as Costner’s departure from the show has frustrated some fans of the series. Reports that Costner’s decision to leave was based on the lack of a major payday certainly don’t help, though he has maintained that it was scheduling conflicts with the production of Horizon that resulted in his decision to leave the hit series. So, while he has experienced incredible success with Yellowstone on television, it’s far from a certainty that this success will translate to the two-part theatrical release of Horizon.

Related: Kevin Costner Reportedly Wants to Return as John Dutton for Yellowstone Finale

Splitting the Story into Two Films


Finally, the last major factor surrounding Horizon that we need to discuss is the method in which the film is being released. Not only is this story being split into two parts, an approach that has previously hurt other blockbusters such as Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, but both films are being released in the same summer. The two-film event approach had a solid run once upon a time, with films like the two-part Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows finale benefitting from the idea, but most major studios seem to have shifted away from the approach in recent years.

Films like Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Part 2, were re-titled as Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The same is true of the animated Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Part One and Part Two, which were re-titled as just Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and the upcoming Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse.


The shift away from two-part films is for seemingly obvious reasons. If audiences don’t feel like they are going to get a full experience with the first film, by virtue of it being just the first half of the story, they aren’t nearly as motivated to go out to the theater to see it. That’s precisely why 2021’s Dune did not include Part One in its formal title and marketing, despite the title card that appears after the opening sequence labeling it as Dune: Part One.

However, these are all cases in which there was at least a year separating the respective Part One and Part Two films, which is not the case with Horizon. With only about seven weeks between the release of the two films, Horizon may just be able to overcome this problem. The only comparable situation is Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon: Part One (which released in December 2023) and Rebel Moon: Part Two (which will release in April 2024), though the overall success of that two-part story is still up in the air.


If Costner’s Horizon: An America Saga – Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 are successful, they will still only be the beginning of the story that Costner has planned. The actor/director has stated that he envisions Horizon as a four-part saga, and he already has the stories written and outlined for the next two chapters. While Chapter 3 was meant to go into production last year, it was halted by the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. Production on Chapter 3 has seemingly still not begun; at this point, it seems likely that Costner, WB and New Line Cinema will wait to see how these first two films perform before moving ahead with the next chapters.

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