Warner Bros. announced late last year that, due to the coronavirus pandemic and as to avoid delaying their highly anticipated films even longer, their entire slate of 2021 films would debut on HBO Max the same day they hit theaters, but a new report from Deadline claims that the studio might shift plans and only release Dune in theaters. This possible change of plans comes as a response to the opening of Godzilla vs. Kong this past weekend, where it took in $48.5 million in its five-day weekend, despite also being available on the streaming service. With both Godzilla vs. Kong and Dune being partnerships with studio Legendary, it's possible that Dune exclusively opening in theaters could be too profitable an opportunity to pass up.
Deadline details the situation, "It hasn't been decided yet if Legendary's other Warner Bros. title Dune will go day and date theatrical and on HBO Max. This is despite the fact that the latter streaming service keeps promoting it as part of their 2021 suite. The success of Godzilla vs. Kong this past weekend makes a clear argument in Legendary's negotiations with Warner to keep that all-star sci-fi movie strictly in theaters."
While there's no arguing about the convenience of being able to see these blockbusters at home, sticking with a traditional theatrical release is not only potentially more profitable for studios, but it would also appease filmmakers. Director of this new adaptation, Denis Villeneuve, previously detailed how he not only specifically crafted the film to be seen on the big screen, but that any box office compromises could prevent the franchise from moving forward as he had planned on.
"Streaming services are a positive and powerful addition to the movie and TV ecosystems," Villeneuve shared in a letter for Variety last December. "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."
Despite an exclusive theatrical release assuredly resulting in higher box office numbers, the premiere of Godzilla vs. Kong also confirmed that, even with the in-home convenience of streaming the film, audiences are still willing to come out to theaters to preserve that experience.
Dune is currently slated to debut on October 1st.
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