With Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 2 pulled from release calendar, I fear Kevin Costner made a bad bet

Kevin Costner in Horizon: An American Saga
Kevin Costner in Horizon: An American Saga (Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

I'll admit it, I was intrigued by the bold strategy that Kevin Costner was taking with his planned four-part epic western Horizon: An American Saga. Not only did he film the first two parts of the story (titled Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 respectively) back to back, but the plan to release them just about a month and a half apart was something we rarely see in Hollywood. All of this had me list it as my most anticipated summer blockbuster movie of 2024. Then the wheels came off the wagon.

After premiering at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1 received tepid reviews; when I finally saw it, I sadly could only agree with the less than favorable sentiments in my own Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1 review. Not the end of the world, movies have succeeded despite bad reviews in the past, and Warner Bros., the studio behind 2023's biggest box office hit Barbie, was promoting the heck out of the movie. (Technically the movie is distributed by New Line Cinema, but they fall under the Warner Bros. banner.)

But it is clear to see that Horizon is no Barbie at the box office. The movie, which was reportedly made for $100 million, has made $22.6 million at the US box office since it was released on June 27; it's made less than $1 million at the international box office. That poor performance has led to a drastic change in strategy on the movies, starting with Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 2 being pulled from its August 16 release calendar with no new release date immediately announced.

The Hollywood Reporter was the first to share the news, with a statement from Costner's production company Territory Pictures and New Line Cinema saying they are delaying Chapter 2 "in order to give audiences a greater opportunity to discover the first installment of Horizon over the coming weeks, including on PVOD and Max." The story shared that Chapter 1 is going to premiere on digital on-demand platforms starting July 16, while a streaming debut on Max has not been announced as of yet.

THR detailed that Costner helped fund the movies with $38 million of his own money and as recently as last week indicated the plan was to start production on Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 3 in August.

Kevin Costner in Horizon: An American Saga

Kevin Costner in Horizon: An American Saga (Image credit: Richard Foreman/Warner Bros.)

Maybe Horizon: An American Saga will find its audience on digital platforms, it's happened before for movies, and Costner's company added an additional statement that many audiences have been enthused by the movie. But with its poor reviews and a three-hour runtime, the chance that the bet on Horizon: An American Saga becoming a massive hit worth its price tag appears to be less and less likely.

Compounding all of this is the fact that the making of Horizon was reportedly part of the reason for Costner to not return to Yellowstone season 5. Costner's exit prompted series creator Taylor Sheridan to conclude the hit neo-western with the second half of season 5 (though a sequel series is in development). Yellowstone has been one of the biggest TV hits in some time, and Costner's John Dutton was a central part of that. To not even have him appear in the final episodes to close out the series is a real shame, and possibly the biggest negative of all of this for general audiences.

Mostly though it is a shame for Costner. I've always been a fan of his and believe he is a talented director, as evidenced by his Best Picture-winning Dances with Wolves (look past it beating Goodfellas, it's a good movie) and his underrated western Open Range. He clearly was passionate about telling Horizon, it just didn't pan out, something many filmmakers can relate to.

At one point or another we are going to get Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 2, be it in movie theaters or on-demand, as it is already done (as evidenced by the previous plan and the promo for it in the Chapter 1 ending). But whether or not this gamble will eventually pay off for Costner and all involved just got a lot harder. A tip of the cap though for taking the risk.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.