It seems that, after much back and forth on the issue, director Denis Villeneuve's Dune will still debut in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, despite reports that it would be given a more traditional theatrical release prior to hitting the streaming platform. According to sources, Dune was said to be one of the first upcoming Warner Bros. tentpoles to break with the studio's current day-and-date release model, which emerged in response to the ongoing global situation. Warner Bros. was said to have reportedly reached a deal with Regal Cinemas to restore a 45-day theatrical window, with Dune set to be the first movie to fall under this deal. But soon after the news broke, Warner Bros. tweeted that this simply wasn't true.
Dune is debuting at the Venice Film Festival in September prior to its release in October, when it will hit both movie theaters and HBO Max, as has long been the plan. There has been much conversation throughout the last year or so regarding the more familiar theatrical release windows and streaming, with Warner Bros. leaning into the latter more heavily than most. Moving all of their major releases to a day-and-date structure is something that has not been done before and came as a huge shock to not only audiences and movie fans, but the talent behind the movies as well.
The director behind Dune, Denis Villeneuve, has not been shy about expressing his distaste for the new release plan, writing an essay at the end of last year about the matter. "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. With this decision AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history," Villeneuve said of the decision.
"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."
Since the announcement was made, there have been rumblings that Villeneuve and representatives at Legendary (which put up 75% of Dune's budget) have been fighting to give Dune the theatrical release they believe it deserves, and evidently it looks like they still haven't won the day.
Dune will hurl audiences into the far future of humanity, as Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) accepts stewardship of the dangerous desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, the only source of the most valuable substance in the universe, "the spice", a drug which extends human life, provides superhuman levels of thought, and makes faster-than-light travel practical. Though Leto knows the opportunity is an intricate trap set by his enemies, he takes his Bene Gesserit concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), young son and heir Paul (Timothée Chalamet), and most trusted advisers to Arrakis. Leto takes control of the spice mining operation, which is made perilous by the presence of giant sandworms. A bitter betrayal leads Paul and Jessica to the Fremen, natives of Arrakis who live in the deep desert.