Denis Villeneuve has published an essay on Variety’s website in which he criticizes Warner Bros. for shifting the release of “Dune” to a hybrid model in which it will open in theaters on the same day it becomes available to stream on HBO Max for 31 days. The studio announced last week it would be using this hybrid release model for its entire 2021 film slate, from “Dune” to “The Matrix 4” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
“There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here,” Villeneuve writes about the HBO Max decision. “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. 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.”
Villeneuve continues, “Warner Bros.’ sudden reversal from being a legacy home for filmmakers to the new era of complete disregard draws a clear line for me. Filmmaking is a collaboration, reliant on the mutual trust of team work and Warner Bros. has declared they are no longer on the same team.”
Warner Bros. was originally going to open “Dune” in theaters December 18, but the pandemic forced the studio to push the science-fiction tentpole back to October 1, 2021. Villeneuve writes that he supported this decision to shift ‘Dune’ into 2021, adding, “The plan was that ‘Dune’ would open in theaters in October 2021, when vaccinations will be advanced and, hopefully, the virus behind us. Science tells us that everything should be back to a new normal next fall.”
“Streaming can produce great content, but not movies of ‘Dune’s’ scope and scale,” the director adds. “Warner Bros.’ decision means ‘Dune’ won’t have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph. Warner Bros. might just have killed the ‘Dune’ franchise. This one is for the fans. AT&T’s John Stankey said that the streaming horse left the barn. In truth, the horse left the barn for the slaughterhouse.”
Villeneuve is the second high profile Warner Bros. filmmaker to speak out against the studio for its HBO Max decision following Christopher Nolan. The “Tenet” filmmaker slammed Warner Bros. for making the announcement about the new hybrid release model without bringing the directors behind the movies into the conversation ahead of time. The hybrid model will start rolling out December 25 with the theatrical and HBO Max release of “Wonder Woman 1984.”
Head over to Variety’s website to read Villeneuve’s essay in its entirety.