Update: Johanna Fuentes, the Head of Communications at WarnerMedia, has since confirmed that Dune will be sticking to its dual release in theaters and on HBO Max.
Original story below:
The past year and a half have been filled with countless instances of uncertainty in the entertainment world, as the COVID-19 pandemic introduced new snags to a lot of industries. This included the theatrical movie market, with social distancing guidelines preventing blockbusters from being shown in a traditional manner. Many studios have delayed or reworked their release strategies because of that — including Warner Bros., which made headlines last year with the decision to release its entire 2021 film slate both in movie theaters and on HBO Max. According to a new report, the studio's upcoming reboot of Dune could no longer be part of that deal. The new report indicates that Warner Bros. will be using Dune as a test study for its new theatrical window plan, with the film screening exclusively in theaters in October first, before being released on HBO Max at a later date. This comes just hours after WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who spearheaded the HBO Max deal, announced that he would be exiting the company following its merger with Discovery.
While this will probably disappoint some viewers who wanted to check out Dune from the comfort of their own home, the decision was arguably a long time coming, with months of rumors and even threats of lawsuits suggesting that the studio Legendary would be fighting back against the deal. Dune director Denis Villeneuve also publicly chastised the HBO Max deal, which creators were reportedly not informed of before the news broke publicly.
"I learned in the news that Warner Bros. has decided to release Dune on HBO Max at the same time as our theatrical release, using prominent images from our movie to promote their streaming service," Villeneuve wrote in an op-ed last December. With this decision, AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history. There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here. It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth, one that is currently bearing an astronomical debt of more than $150 billion. Therefore, even though Dune is about cinema and audiences, AT&T is about its own survival on Wall Street. With HBO Max's launch a failure thus far, AT&T decided to sacrifice Warner Bros.' entire 2021 slate in a desperate attempt to grab the audience's attention."
"Streaming services are a positive and powerful addition to the movie and TV ecosystems," Villeneuve added. "But I want the audience to understand that streaming alone can't sustain the film industry as we knew it before COVID. 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."
Dune is expected to debut on October 1st.