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Dune might be a theatrical exclusive after all

Timothée Chalamet in Dune
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Dune could be a theatrical exclusive after all, despite plans for Warner Bros.' entire 2021 slate to debut simultaneously on the big screen and on HBO Max.

Deadline indicate that Dune will have a Venice premiere this September, then play theatrically, then go to HBO Max. However, also in the report is a denial from Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.' distribution chief, who said there's "no change" to Dune's October 1 release, and it will hit theaters and HBO Max at the same time as planned.

Warner Bros.' 2021 release plan is controversial, with Christopher Nolan notably criticizing the decision. Dune director Denis Villeneuve was also particularly scathing of the move: "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," Villeneuve wrote. "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."

The simultaneous release strategy also won't be extended past 2021, with a recent deal meaning Warner Bros. movies will screen exclusively at Regal Cinemas for 45 days from 2022.

However, Godzilla vs. Kong, which released simultaneously in theaters and HBO Max, set a pandemic box office record with a massive opening weekend overseas. Domestically, it netted $45.8 million on its opening weekend, and, according to Samba TV third party viewing figures, attracted 3.6 million households on HBO Max in its first five days. Mortal Kombat has also been performing well, with a current global box office total of over $76 million.

We'll probably have to wait a while longer to find out for sure if Dune is a theatrical exclusive or not – its set for release October 1. Until then, check out our guide to 2021's upcoming movie release dates, and find the best HBO Max prices and deals.