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Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson, Dune
Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson, DunePhoto by Chiabella James

Dune producers may take legal action if the film goes straight to streaming

Warner Bros’ decision to debut the film on HBO Max and in cinemas simultaneously has also drawn criticism from director Denis Villeneuve

Earlier this month, Dune director Denis Villeneuve criticised Warner Bros for a deal with HBO Max, which would see the film premiere on the streaming platform on the same day it hits cinema screens. According to Deadline, the production company Legendary was also “completely blindsided” by the distributor’s new streaming arrangements.

Legendary – which financed 75% of the film – has now reportedly threatened lawsuits if the film doesn’t get a standalone theatrical release. Originally set to debut in late 2020, the sci-fi epic, starring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, is now slated to arrive in October 2021 due to coronavirus complications.

Villeneuve previously spoke about the decision to simultaneously release Dune (along with Warner Bros’ whole 2021 slate) in cinemas and online, in an article for Variety. The move “is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth”, he writes. “Warner Brothers’ sudden reversal from being a legacy home for filmmakers to the new era of complete disregard draws a clear line for me.”

“Filmmaking is a collaboration, reliant on the mutual trust of team work and Warner Brothers has declared they are no longer on the same team.”

While Villeneuve allows that streaming services are “a positive and powerful addition to the movie and TV ecosystems,” he adds that they: “can’t sustain the film industry as we knew it before COVID.”

Other filmmakers, including Christopher Nolan, have spoken out against the film studio’s decision, while chief executive of WarnerMedia Studios Ann Sarnoff has responded that the pandemic calls for “creative solutions”. Read Dazed’s take on how the releases of Dune, Matrix 4, and other massive titles will threaten cinemas here.

Revisit the official trailer for Dune below.