Could Dune Go Just to Theaters?

Could Dune Go Just to Theaters?

The ever-changing slate of release plans for high-profile films has just added a new question mark. The theatrical success of Godzilla vs. Kong (which we reviewed here) may convince Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures to try debuting the film exclusively on the big screen, rather than simultaneously on HBO Max. There are still many factors to consider and plenty of time before its currently-scheduled October 2nd release date, but the strong box office performance of the latest Warner Bros. blockbuster, which has already taken in almost $50 million, is likely to inspire confidence in what was typical pre-pandemic.

It’s been a long journey for this version of Dune, which is adapted from Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel and follows David Lynch’s 1984 film and a 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries. From director Denis Villeneuve, this big-budget production was initially on the calendar for a November 20th, 2020 release before being pushed first to December of last year and then to its current October 2021 date, which was previously reserved by Warner Bros. for The Batman. In December, when Dune was first announced as coming to HBO Max in addition to theaters, director Denis Villeneuve, whose previous films include Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, expressed to Variety that “Dune is by far the best movie I’ve ever made. My team and I devoted more than three years of our lives to make it a unique big screen experience.

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Our movie’s image and sound were meticulously designed to be seen in theaters.

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” Kyle MacLachlan, who starred in the 1984 film version, lamented to The Seattle Times that “I think the simultaneous release is kind of the wave of the future. It’s disheartening though because a movie like that is meant to be seen on the large screen.”

But the theatrical quality and box office performance of films like Godzilla vs. Kong aren’t the only consideration, as its home viewership was also quite impressive and reason for celebration. Andy Forssell, EVP and General Manager of WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer, reported, “The HBO Max audience has spoken very clearly and loudly: they love this film and are watching it more than once. Comparing audience metrics in the first four days since its release, Godzilla vs. Kong had a larger viewing audience than any other film or show on HBO Max since launch,” according to Deadline.

The notion of simultaneous releases in theaters and on streaming platforms has been met with considerable controversy and even outright anger from filmmakers. When it was announced last December that the entire Warner Bros. slate for 2021 would be premiering in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day, Christopher Nolan, whose Tenet tested the waters as the first major movie released in theaters during the pandemic, blasted Warner Bros. for betraying filmmakers by creating this new model rather than allowing theatrical exclusivity before a home video release. Others were similarly upset with the idea that their work might not be seen on a big screen because audiences could simply watch from the comfort of their own home, and not even for a premium fee like Disney has opted to charge for some of its bigger projects, like Mulan and Black Widow.

Nothing has been announced or officially decided yet, but, as vaccinations increase and moviegoers start flocking back to newly open theaters across the country, expect more updates on the way films get to people in this continuously-evolving industry and worldwide situation.

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