Denis Villeneuve has hit out at Warner Bros for shifting the release of Dune so that it will open in theatres and become available on HBO Max on the same day.
Last week, Warner Bros announced that it will provide the simultaneous release for all of its 2021 movies, in response to the coronavirus pandemic’s severe impact on the stability of the traditional theatre-first release model.
In a searing new essay for Variety, the Dune director said there was “absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience” in Warner Bros’ decision.
“It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth, one that is currently bearing an astronomical debt of more than $150 billion,” he wrote.
“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.”
He continued: “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.”
Villeneuve went on to explain that he was supportive of Warner Bros’ decision to push back the Dune release date until October 2021, but now fears that the move to HBO Max will directly impact the film’s chances of success.
“Streaming can produce great content, but not movies of ‘Dune”s scope and scale,” he added.
“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, after Christopher Nolan criticised the decision.
In a new interview with ET, the Tenet writer and director called the move “very, very, very, very messy”, aiming his criticism at the apparent suddenness of the announcement.
“There’s such controversy around it because they didn’t tell anyone,” he said. “In 2021, they’ve got some of the top filmmakers in the world, they’ve got some of the biggest stars in the world who worked for years in some cases on these projects very close to their hearts that are meant to be big-screen experiences.”
A separate interview with The Hollywood Reporter saw Nolan going even further with his criticism – calling HBO Max the “worst streaming service”.
The movies Warner Bros. is planning to release in 2021 include: Dune, The Matrix 4, The Suicide Squad, The Little Things, Judas And The Black Messiah, Tom & Jerry, Godzilla Vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Those Who Wish Me Dead, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, In The Heights, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Reminiscence, Malignant, The Many Saints Of Newark, King Richard, and Cry Macho.