Watch: Dune trailer
Legendary, the producer of Denis Villeneuve's new version of Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic Dune, is threatening lawsuits if the movie goes straight to streaming.
According to Deadline, the company, which funded 75% of the movie, is fighting against plans recently announced by Warner Bros, the movie's distributor, to shift its 2021 slate of movies to a 'hybrid' of release in cinemas and streaming via HBO Max on the same day.
The move has come in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered cinemas around the world, and caused chaos for studio release schedules and revenue.
Legendary was said to have been 'blindsided' by the announcement earlier this month, which has been publicly decried by the likes of Villeneuve, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow and Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.
Jenkins' current movie Wonder Woman 1984 will be released early to streaming after a brief spell at cinemas which remain open.
But Legendary is reportedly 'in a big fight that might result in lawsuits' over the new 'hybrid' release plans, partly because the Dune movie, which will come in two parts, may also pave the way for a TV series.
It's hoped that because Dune's release isn't until October, 2021, that by then the cinema business may have returned to some semblance of normality, as mass vaccine use starts to make congregating in groups safer.
However, Legendary's other big release, Godzilla vs. Kong, is due in May, and could fall foul of the Warner Bros plan.
Per the Deadline article, talent reps may even step in to stop actors from promoting their movies in protest.
Director Villeneuve took to the pages of Variety earlier this month to slam the Warner Bros decision.
“There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here,” he wrote.
“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.
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“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.”
Nolan too tore into the decision, saying in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.
“Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak. They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense, and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction.”
Nolan’s latest movie Tenet was the first major title to return to cinemas over the summer, as coronavirus cases and lockdowns eased, but it made a fraction of what it would have done under normal circumstances, making just $362 million worldwide.
Watch: Tenet trailer