There’s been no shortage of drama around the release of this year’s theater-destined films. From the day-and-date controversy to fears over renewed COVID closures, it’s been a turbulent atmosphere. All the same, the exhibition industry has managed an exceptional turnaround on a very short timeline. With this tumultuous backdrop, it was intriguing (to say the least) to see Denis Villeneuve's much anticipated Dune take a strong stance on theater releases. We turned to entertainment attorney Brandon Blake to break down this intriguing new development for us.

Better on the big screen

Many have been thrilled to see Frank Herbert’s classic tale of Spice, giant worms, and the desolate landscape of Arrakis return to the big screen. This will be the third attempt to adapt the iconic sci-fi story for film, with a failed 1970 effort and the poorly received box office bomb from David Lynch in 1984. With an original release date of November 2020, Dune has seen several setbacks of its own, both because of the pandemic-related upheaval in the industry and to ensure it didn’t overlap release dates with the latest James Bond installment, No Time to Die.

As a Warner Bros property, Dune will be forced to a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release for their premium arm of the HBO Max service. That doesn’t mean the director has to be pleased about that. Villeneuve is very vocal regarding the right way to view his film- and that’s on the big screen.

Controlled screeners and more

The film will premiere on September 3rd at the Venice Film Festival, with a general release on October 22nd, and Villeneuve has ensured that no viewing links for the film have been used- he wants it seen only on the big screen. He also hasn’t held back his opinions on the hybrid release strategy, either, calling such releases "driving a speedboat in a bathtub". He does claim to have Warner backing on this, softening his harsh words with a claim that execs decided on hybrid release before viewing the film, and that they, too, feel it is perfect for the cinema now it’s been seen.

We can assume he does have some backing on the hard stance, as Warner has both allowed him to veto digital screeners as well as offered a supportive marketing campaign for the film despite his outspoken disagreement with their chosen release strategy. Villeneuve has a reputation as a visual genius, crafting many epic screen moments throughout his career, and Dune’s weeping story and intricate world building undoubtedly offers the perfect vehicle to showcase that talent to the max. It’s easy to understand why he’d prefer to see it taken to movie theater screenings instead of a range of pocket digital devices with tiny screens.

With COVID once again rearing its ugly head, it’s too soon to say whether he’ll get his wish that all Dune fans get to see it on the full-sized screens most appropriate to his vision. It also makes sense for Warner Bros to keep the film ready to deploy on streaming, as well. Artistic integrity, while critical, does not trump the safety and comfort of fans. One thing is for certain, however- all current indications are that the film will be a visual marvel well worth enjoying, so be sure to give it some support when you get a chance.

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