Last year, Warner Bros. announced that they would be releasing the entirety of their 2021 movie lineup in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously. That ticked off a lot of the people behind those movies, including Dune director Denis Villeneuve, who went to town on WarnerMedia in an open letter. “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,” he wrote. “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. This one is for the fans. AT&T’s John Stankey said that the streaming horse left the barn. In truth, the horse left the barn for the slaughterhouse.
Looking back, I think this seems like an overreaction — you could even call it a tantrum. For one thing, the duel release idea seems to have been a success; Wonder Woman 1984, the first Warner Bros. movie to get this treatment, doubled HBO Max subscriptions. Second, part of the reason Warner Bros. is taking this step is to give people the option to watch their movies at home rather than go to the theater during the coronavirus pandemic, which I think is considerate. And third, yeesh, dude, your movie is still gonna be in theaters, it’ll just be available on streaming, too, calm down.
Kyle MacLachlan, star of the 1984 Dune movie, disheartened by new movie’s release
Nevertheless, Dune producer Legendary is fighting to get the movie a theatrical-only release, so we’ll see how that goes. In the meanwhile, Kyle MacLachlan, who played the lead role of Paul Atreides in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Dune (Timothée Chalamet plays him in the new version) talked to The Seattle Times about the new movie.
“I’m excited to see it,” MacLachlan said. “It’s one of my favorite books and I look forward to seeing what the director Villeneuve does with it. I think the simultaneous release is kind of the wave of the future. It’s disheartening though because a movie like that is meant to be seen on the large screen.”
Once again, I have to point out that people will be able to see Dune on the big screen — I certainly plan to, assuming COVID rates have leveled off a bit by October.
Kyle MacLachlan would prefer Dune be a series
In any case, MacLachlan has his own ideas for how to handle Dune. “I would lobby for three or more films, because it has that kind of potential to really open up,” he told IndieWire a while back. “In my imagination, I always thought it would be great to approach it like a ‘Game of Thrones’ model, where you have seasons, or at least a 10-part series, or a 12-part series. You could really go from beginning to end.”
Of course, if Dune were a series, no one could see it on the big screen. Pick a lane, MacLachlan!
Anyway, Denis Villeneuve is indeed splitting up the story of Dune into two parts, although we don’t know if he’s returning to direct the follow-up yet.
Dune will come out in theaters and on HBO Max on October 1. In the meantime, you can catch MacLachlan as President Theadore Roosevelt in Atlantic Crossing, airing as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series on April 4.