Late last year, Warner Bros. made history by announcing their upcoming 2021 theatrical slate would also be going straight to HBO Max on the same day said films were intended to hit theaters. It was a bold, game-changing move – and it was met with immediate resistance. Because as it turns out, the folks at Warners had neglected to inform the filmmakers and actors involved with their upcoming movies of the decision.
Legendary Pictures, which has an agreement to co-produce and co-finance films with Warner Bros., was perhaps the loudest voice against the idea, claiming they were very upset that upcoming Legendary/WB films Godzilla vs. Kong and Dune would be released in this matter. There was even talk of legal action. Now, a report indicates that Warner Bros. and Legendary are close to reaching a deal regarding Godzilla vs. Kong, but negotiations involving Dune are ongoing.
The story about potential legal action involving Warner Bros. and Legendary surfaced in December 2020, indicating that Legendary planned to “send legal letters to Warner Bros. to challenge the day-and-date release of its two films, on which Legendary wasn’t consulted before the unprecedented streaming release plan was announced.” The film production company was particularly angry with the studio over plans to release Godzilla vs. Kong and Dune to HBO Max. And Dune filmmaker Denis Villeneuve even writing an article for Variety in which he angrily stated: “With this decision, AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history. There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here.”
According to a new article from THR, the negotiations between Legendary and WB over Dune are ongoing, but a resolution regarding Godzilla vs. Kong is apparently imminent. As THR states, “An agreement means the parties are close to averting a potential legal confrontation over Warner Media’s surprise decision to put its entire 2021 slate on its HBO Max streamer on the same date that the films open in theaters.” They also add that “The movie will keep its May 21 release date in theaters, including IMAX, as well as HBO Max. Legendary will release the film in China.”
If the movie is still hitting HBO Max, just what’s being resolved here? The answer: money. Legendary is likely set to get a bigger payday because of this situation. But what of Dune? That remains a trickier question. It also puts Warners in a tough spot, because if Legendary and those involved with Dune want to fight against the HBO Max release, and WB relents, it’s going to set a precedent, and other 2021 WB films may want similar treatment. For instance, the THR story indicates that The Matrix 4 director Lana Wachowski is “adamant about an exclusive theatrical run” for the film, which is currently slated to hit HBO Max on December 22, 2021.
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