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Salem's Lot Release Date Shift: Why I'm Both Happy And Sad About The Stephen King Movie's Move

Ralphie Glick in Salem's Lot 1979
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Television)

After months of building anticipation, Gary Dauberman’s upcoming adaptation of Salem’s Lot is no longer going to be released in 2022. While Warner Bros. originally scheduled the film to be released on September 9 of this year, it was announced this morning that the studio has opted to alter the plans and have the movie come out in April 2023 instead. That leaves John Lee Hancock’s Mr. Harrigan’s Phone as the only upcoming Stephen King adaptation this year – and I’m experiencing some mixed emotions from the news.

There are ways in which I see the Salem’s Lot release date change as a good thing, and in other ways my reaction is disappointment. As a result, this feature is kind of like a pop culture therapy session as I talk through my feelings on the matter.

Kurt Barlow attacks in 1979's Salem's Lot

(Image credit: CBS)

Our Wait For Salem’s Lot Just Went From Two Months Long To Nine Months Long

I’ll start by letting my Id have the floor, fueled by our culture of instant gratification: the decision to push Salem’s Lot means that our wait to see the finished film has nearly quintupled. Stephen King fans have been expecting the movie’s arrival at the very end of summer for a while now –with the teaser footage at this year’s CinemaCon further raising anticipation – but now we won’t actually get to see it until next spring.

To allow my Super Ego to get a word in edgewise, this move isn’t terribly surprising, as Salem’s Lot was supposed to come out in two months, and yet the studio has not yet released an official still from the movie, let alone a trailer. That’s a red flag suggesting a release date shifting that has been flapping in the wind for weeks now, but that no less makes it a bummer to see the suggestion become reality. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that Constant Readers may get an early look at the movie during San Diego Comic-Con later this month, but I can’t say I’m over-the-moon optimistic about the possibility anymore.

Danny Glick in Salem's Lot 1979

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Television)

More Post-Production Time Will Be Helpful With A Story This Complex

According to the report by Deadline, Salem’s Lot has been pushed “due to Covid-related delays in the post production realm,” and in addition to being happy that proper health and safety precautions are being made behind the scenes, I’m also glad to hear that delays aren’t forcing the filmmakers to try and hit an unreasonable deadline crafting a finished cut of the movie (which would have been created had the release date remained static). More post-production time is generally a positive thing for any production, but one would think that it’s going to be particularly helpful in the case of this project.

The reason why Salem’s Lot has only ever been adapted as a miniseries before is because Stephen King’s novel has remarkable scope for a story that is all but entirely set within the borders of a small town in Maine. The terror in the material comes from slowly witnessing the infestation of vampires that ultimately swallows the secluded titular village, and it’s going to take a lot of effort in the editing room to recreate that epic experience on the big screen. An extra wait is worth it to fans if it means that it gives the work the opportunity to be the best possible version of itself.

The vampire from Salem's Lot

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

It Won’t Be Around For The “Halloween Season”

Being a horror fan means knowing that the “Halloween Season” is not merely limited to September/October, but instead is a year-round event – but I will admit that there is an extra level of spooky that exists in the fall. A regular chill rides on the air, shadows stretch a little further as the days get shorter and the nights get longer… and there’s the fact that Halloween is on October 31. And it saddens me that I won’t be able to celebrate the special holiday this year with a new Stephen King adaptation in theaters.

Without advocating that Salem’s Lot be pushed to Halloween 2023 (see reasoning in the first section), it’s a shame that audiences won’t have the opportunity to walk out of a screening of this film on a dark fall evening and walk back to their cars with a cold wind licking their necks and fearing that a vampire might pop out of the shadows. You can’t really get that same effect with an April movie (in America, at least), and that’s a disappointment.

Father Callahan in Salem's Lot 1979

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Television)

The New Release Date Shows Warner Bros. Still Has Confidence In The Film

When release date shifts happen, it’s often possible to pick up on warning signs about a movie based on the move. It’s typically not a great omen when a film is pushed to either January or August, as those have long been seen as months with low box office potential, and it suggests that a studio is giving up on a title when they make the decision to release it either the same week as a major blockbuster, or one week after. Neither of these circumstances are present in the move of Salem’s Lot to next April.

As far as competition goes, the Stephen King adaptation will be hitting theaters three weeks after Scream 6, and two weeks before Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which means that it should have a nice little bubble for box office dominance (or so Warner Bros. hopes). And in regards to Salem’s Lot coming out in the month of April, late spring has become a season with high potential for big screen success. There is no indication here that the film is being dumped; instead, it appears to be getting opportunity to succeed

Salem’s Lot – featuring a stellar cast including Lewis Pullman, Makenzie Leigh, Bill Camp, Alfre Woodard, Spencer Treat Clark, Pilou Asbæk, and William Sadler – will be in theaters on April 21, 2023. While Constant Readers wait for the anticipated feature’s arrival, you can explore my Adapting Stephen King columns about the two previous adaptations of the beloved book: the 1979 miniseries directed by Tobe Hooper, and the 2004 remake starring Rob Lowe.

Eric Eisenberg
Eric Eisenberg

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.