When it was announced late last year that WarnerMedia was going to release all 2021 Warner Bros. films on HBO Max and in theaters on the same day, one of the biggest names that spoke out against the move was “Dune” filmmaker, Denis Villeneuve. This led to reports that the film might be an exception to the rule because Legendary Entertainment was unhappy with the idea that the new franchise film might be a box office casualty because of the hybrid release. Well, regardless of behind-the-scenes studio friction, it appears “Dune” is still destined for a HBO Max/theatrical release later this year.
In a new report from the Los Angeles Times, which spoke to various members of the Warner Bros. executive team, no film is exempt from the hybrid release schedule, which includes Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune.” This comes on the heels of recent reports that said the film might have a theatrical release ahead of its HBO Max debut, which seemed to be exactly what the filmmakers were fighting for. Alas, with the success of debuts like “Godzilla vs. Kong” and other WB films that have done the HBO Max/theatrical strategy, it appears WB isn’t willing to budge for “Dune” or any other film that is coming this year.
Talking about the original plan months ago, Villeneuve said, “Streaming can produce great content, but not movies of ‘Dune’s’ scope and scale. Warner Bros.’ decision means ‘Dune’ won’t have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph. Warner Bros. might just have killed the ‘Dune’ franchise. This one is for the fans. AT&T’s John Stankey said that the streaming horse left the barn. In truth, the horse left the barn for the slaughterhouse.”
Obviously, we’ll just have to wait and see how well “Dune” does at the box office and on HBO Max before we know if the decision truly killed the potential franchise. In the case of the Frank Herbert film adaptation, it’s doubly sad because the upcoming film doesn’t even tell the full story of the novel, as Villeneuve always intended to make at least two films in the series.
“Dune” isn’t alone in this hybrid release fate. Another film that is shockingly still sticking to the HBO Max release is James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad,” which is definitely a feature that could have made well north of $500 million at the worldwide box office—a rare feat for an R-rated feature. But for now, unless there’s a last-minute change, it appears WB is sticking with its original plan. “Dune” be damned.