News broke less than a week after Warner Bros. announced it was shifting its entire 2021 film slate to a hybrid theatrical-HBO Max release model that Legendary Entertainment was set to challenge the Hollywood studio over the decision. Legendary financed 75% of the budgets for “Dune” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Under Warner Bros.’ new release strategy, these tentpoles will open in theaters on the same day they become available to stream exclusively on HBO Max for 31 days. Deadline now reports that Legendary’s fight against Warner Bros. could save at least “Dune” from a streaming fate.
As reported by Deadline: “Legendary is in a big fight that might result in lawsuits after it financed 75% of tentpoles ‘Dune’ and ‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’ and was completely blindsided. Rumors have the solution to that breach being to preserve ‘Dune’ as a traditional theatrical to preserve its franchise potential and since its October 1 release date falls well after the estimated late spring date when Covid vaccines should achieve herd immunity. ‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’ might stay an HBO Max hybrid in its May 21 slot, but only if Warner Bros. makes a deal with Legendary that uses as a base the $250 million value established when the film was shopped earlier to Netflix.”
Deadline originally reported that Legendary’s biggest issue with moving “Dune” to a hybrid release model was that it could impact the long-term commercial viability of the franchise. “Dune,” directed by Denis Villeneuve, is the first entry in a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel. The movie is also set to lay the groundwork for a television series.
When it comes to “Godzilla vs. Kong,” Legendary allegedly had Netflix lined up to purchase “Godzilla vs. Kong” for around $250 million earlier this year. Warner Bros.’ parent company WarnerMedia reportedly blocked the decision, thus opening the door for the monster movie tentpole to be released on HBO Max in addition to theaters. Per Deadline, Legendary is reportedly looking to secure the same $250 million valuation from Warner Bros. over its decision to stream “Godzilla vs. Kong.” IndieWire has reached out to Legendary Entertainment for comment.
If Legendary can manage to preserve “Dune” as a theatrical-only release, it will certainly please writer-director Villeneuve. The filmmaker came out swinging against Warner Bros.’ decision to shift “Dune” to HBO Max, publishing an essay on Variety earlier this month in which he said the decision “might’ve killed the franchise.”
“There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here,” Villeneuve wrote of the HBO Max decision. “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.”
“Dune” is currently scheduled for a hybrid release on October 1, 2021. “Godzilla vs. Kong” will be released earlier on May 21, 2021.