‘Dune’ Producer Legendary Entertainment May Sue Warner Bros. Over HBO Max Deal

By Rebecca Rubin, Brent Lang

Legendary Entertainment, the production company that co-financed “Dune” and “Godzilla vs. Kong,” may take legal action against Warner Bros. over the studio’s decision to send its movies to HBO Max at the same time they debut in cinemas.

Legendary financed a significant portion of “Dune,” which cost roughly $175 million, and “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which carries a price tag around $160 million. Yet the company was largely kept out of the loop that their films would be included in Warner Bros.’ plan to send 17 films — its entire 2021 slate — to the subscription streaming service and any open movie theaters.

Sources familiar with the situation say top brass at Legendary are trying to have conversations with Warner Bros. regarding its upcoming films. Legendary and Warner Bros. have frequently collaborated over the years on titles such as Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, “The Hangover” movies and the “Godzilla” franchise. Legendary is hoping to first negotiate a more generous deal, but isn’t taking legal action off the table should the two companies fail to come to a compromise. One possibility is that Warner Bros. would buy the films outright from Legendary. No legal challenge has been filed yet, but a suit could materialize early this week. It’s unclear what legal grounds Legendary would use to challenge the decision, though it would likely involve some breach of contract.

Legendary declined to comment, as did Warner Bros.

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Part of Legendary’s frustration is that despite largely bankrolling “Dune” and “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the production company didn’t have much of a say in how its buzzy titles would be released. Moreover, the company felt that Warner Bros. wasn’t being transparent with its intentions. Months ago, Netflix had discussed a possible sale of “Godzilla vs. Kong” for a hefty $250 million but WarnerMedia, the parent company of Warner Bros., blocked that arrangement.

Denis Villeneuve, the director of “Dune,” is similarly disappointed with the HBO Max plan and would prefer a traditional theatrical release for his movie, according to insiders. The “Dune” adaptation is intended to be the first of a two-part retelling of Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 novel. The big-budget sci-fi epic — starring Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac and Zendaya — was initially greenlit with the intention of launching on the big screen. It’s too early to know if the planned sequel would follow the same rollout as the first. Other filmmakers involved in the movie are also privately unhappy with the move.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is currently scheduled to debut on May 21, 2021. “Dune” is slated to open on Oct. 1.