Movie critics say “Dune” should be seen on the big screen. Here’s why Warner Bros. Still planning to release the film simultaneously on HBO Max

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After “Dune, The next cinematic retelling of Frank Herbert’s landmark 1965 sci-fi novel, premiered at the Venice Film Festival, critics – even those who weren’t particularly excited about the film – were keen to say that the striking visuals asked to be seen on the big screen.

The reason so many people have chosen to stress the benefit of watching the movie in theaters is that “Dune,” like every Warner Bros. release. in 2021, is broadcast simultaneously on HBO Max. The positive reception towards “Dune” and its awe-inspiring special effects sparked rumors that Warner Bros., the studio behind the $ 165 million budgeted space epic, would reconsider its decision to release the film. simultaneously streaming, a strategy that has proven to be effective. curb, or even vivisect, ticket sales at the box office.

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Of all the new titles from Warner Bros. this year, “Dune,” a huge budget movie that has been hailed for delivering a truly epic slice of world-building and big-screen spectacle, would have been a prime candidate to avoid the day-and-date model on HBO Max. . When it was announced last year, director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) was among those most opposed to the film’s hybrid release and the decision to transfer the films to streaming. In a column for Variety, he lambasted the studio’s “total disregard” for its filmmakers and criticized its choice to “promote their streaming service” and forgo the box office dollars in return.

‘Warner Bros.’ decision means that “Dune” will not have the chance to function financially to be viable and piracy will eventually triumph ”, Villeneuve written in the days following the studio’s announcement. “Warner Bros. may have just killed the ‘Dune’ franchise.”

Insiders of Warner Bros. say there’s no way “Dune,” starring Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, and Oscar Isaac, will have any sort of US-exclusive theatrical window when it debuts on October 22. the altered distribution plan has long since been ironed out, meaning the studio won’t face the kind of legal challenge that Disney did when Scarlett Johansson sued him for releasing “Black Widow” simultaneously on Disney Plus. Some international markets, including Asia, will have the opportunity to play “Dune” and several other Warner Bros. titles. during an exclusive period because the HBO Max day and date agreement only concerns the United States.

Sources close to the production say that following the outcry, Legendary Entertainment, the production company that funded the majority of “Dune”, was given the option to wait for the film’s premiere, which would have it. pushed out of the HBO Max window and secured a theatrical-only release. Executives of Warner Bros. have since maintained that Project Popcorn, the nickname given to its controversial HBO Max deal, was a “one-year plan” and would not run until 2022. In recent months, the studio has made formal deals with large cinema chains, including AMC, to keep its films only in theaters for 45 days.

Since “Dune” had already been postponed three times, Villeneuve and other key players objected to pushing it back even though Legendary, months earlier, had. considered taking legal action vs. Warner Bros. because that was not factored into the decision to send the movie to HBO Max. Legendary and Villeneuve declined to comment.

As a sign of negotiation on the wire, “Dune’s” decision to go ahead was not finalized until mid-August, shortly before the film’s debut in Venice. Other films impacted by HBO Max’s release date model had signed contracts months before.

For Warner Bros., the arrangement to put its movie roster – a group that includes the musical adaptation of “In the Heights,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and the R-rated comic book adaptation “The Suicide Squad “- on HBO Max has been a huge financial undertaking as nearly every release has failed to meet the already tempered box office expectations of the COVID era. Additionally, the studio, in an effort to satisfy talent, has agreed to pay its leading actors and filmmakers the bonuses they would have received had their films been massive theatrical successes. This means everyone from Hugh Jackman to Denzel Washington has received tens of millions of financial awards despite titles like “Reminiscence” and “The Little Things” generating much less than the studio had expected when they released. gave the green light to films the year before the pandemic.

If “Dune” had been pushed back to next year, the filmmakers behind the sci-fi opera would not have been guaranteed backend payments. By keeping the film on HBO Max, “Dune” will almost certainly make less money than it would have generated with an exclusive theatrical window, but it will ensure that its filmmakers and talents are well paid anyway.

In the case of “Dune,” this is the type of project that was challenged at the box office as moviegoers favored easily digestible action movies over complex storytelling sagas. “Dune”, in particular, has been notoriously difficult to adapt; David Lynch’s 1984 feature film was a spectacular failure because, among many reasons, it was hard to follow. The critical response to Villeneuve’s perspective on the history of warring political dynasties clashing for access to a vital planet, has, for the most part, been positive with an average of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Villeneuve knows how difficult it is to get audiences excited for a movie that doesn’t involve comic book heroes or radioactive beasts. His last film was “Blade Runner 2049”, a sequel to the cult classic from 1982. The film was widely praised, but was also a commercial disappointment, generating $ 92 million in North America and $ 260 million worldwide. against a production budget of over $ 150 million. All of this, that is, even without an industry-changing pandemic, “Dune” may never have reached the milestones necessary to trigger the generous backend deals that are tied to ambitious box references. office. In times of non-COVID, studios typically only pay for three or four films per year. Most films lose money during their theatrical release.

While stressing the importance of safety amid COVID-19 and the rapidly spreading Delta variant, Villeneuve has made it clear that he prefers moviegoers to watch “Dune” in theaters. “My team and I have devoted more than three years of our life to making it a unique experience on the big screen,” he wrote last December. “The image and sound of our film were meticulously designed to be seen in theaters.”

At Venice Film Festival, he explained the benefit of watching “Dune” in the cinema rather than from the sofa. “When you watch this movie on the big screen, it’s a physical experience,” he said. “We tried to design it to be as immersive as possible.”

“Dune”, which lasts two hours and 35 minutes, is the first entry in an expected two-part saga. Already, a spin-off TV series titled “Dune: The Sisterhood” has launched on HBO Max, but a sequel to the film has not officially been released. It stands to reason that the performance of “Dune: Part I” will help determine the financial viability of moving forward with another installment on the big screen. However, it’s unclear what Warner Bros. and Legendary will consider a success in times of plague. Studio executives said streaming metrics on HBO Max were in line with ticket sales; when a Warner Bros. being a hit at the box office, it also saw a significant following on HBO Max. But when a movie falls flat in theaters, it’s not streamed either. This means that it will be harder than ever to come to a conclusion whether film producers need to invest an additional $ 165 million in the interplanetary tale set in the Arrakis Desert.

However, insiders say the HBO Max deal gives Villeneuve reassurance that the dwindling box office revenue won’t stop him from having the chance to make his follow-up feature. Other films that have had a hybrid release still have discussions about sequels, Warner Bros. seeking to develop further installments in his “Mortal Kombat” universe.

“Hopefully we can do a second one,” Chalamet, who plays lead character Paul Atreides, told reporters at the Venice Film Festival. “It would be a dream.”

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