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Chloé Zhao ‘Blown Away’ by Villeneuve’s ‘Dune,’ but ‘Terrified’ People Won’t See It in Theaters

Zhao said Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" gives her hope about the future of the cinematic medium.



Warner Bros.

Denis Villeneuve’s highly-anticipated “Dune” adaptation is set to world premiere September 3 at the Venice Film Festival before its October release date, but the movie already has at least one high-profile fan in Chloé Zhao. During an interview for the September 2021 issue of Sight & Sound magazine, Zhao revealed she had just come from an early screening of Villeneuve’s science-fiction epic. The magazine asked the “Nomadland” Oscar winner her thoughts on the future of the cinematic medium, to which she referenced “Dune.”

As reported by Sight & Sound: “Zhao seems well positioned to comment on where on earth — or elsewhere — the medium might be heading. Not that she’s at all decided on the matter. ‘I’m both really hopeful and also really terrified,’ she says, ‘so it varies every day.’ The day we speak, she’s on the hopeful end. She’s just come from an early screening of Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi spectacle ‘Dune,’ and it has her feeling pretty bullish on the current state of cinema — artistically, at least.”

“It gives me hope that a filmmaker like Denis is able to really harness his vision and put together something that’s so incredible, so cinematic,” Zhao told the magazine. “I’m just blown away by the experience I had in that room. But I’m terrified about how many people are or aren’t going to have that experience like I did, in a theatre, and what that means for the future.”

Warner Bros. is opening “Dune” in theaters October 22, and it will be available to stream starting the same day on HBO Max. Zhao is clearly on the side of debate arguing against streaming “Dune,” as is Villeneuve himself. After Warner Bros. announced last December it was moving its entire 2021 theatrical slate to the hybrid theaters-HBO Max release model, Villeneuve penned an essay bashing the decision.

“There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here,” Villeneuve wrote. “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 added at the time, “Streaming can produce great content, but not movies of ‘Dune’s’ scope and scale. 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.”

Zhao herself is stepping into the world of studio tentpoles with her Marvel Cinematic Universe entry “Eternals,” arriving in theaters after “Dune” on November 5.

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