Denis Villeneuve blasts Warner Bros over decision to move ‘Dune’ to HBO Max

A still from Denis Villeneuve’s Dune’  

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has written a hard-hitting article, slamming Warner Bros and its parent company AT&T over their decision to release its 2021 films, including his next “Dune”, simultaneously in theatres and on HBO Max.

Last week, Warner Bros had announced that its entire slate of films for the year 2021 will premiere both in theatres and on HBO Max.

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Among the 17 films that are set to be available both theatrically and on the streamer are big-budget tentpoles such as Villeneuve’s “Dune”, “The Suicide Squad”, monster movie “Godzilla vs Kong”, and Keanu Reeves-starrer “The Matrix 4“.

In the article for Variety on Thursday, Villeneuve said the company’s move is “a desperate attempt to grab the audience’s attention” for HBO Max, which has proved to be a “failure thus far.”

“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.

“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 filmmaker wrote.

His comments come days after filmmaker Christopher Nolan, whose latest movie “Tenet” was released by Warner Bros, slammed the studio’s decision.

Nolan had said Warner Bros’ move was aimed at salvaging its “fledgling” streaming service HBO Max.

Villeneuve, the man behind several critically-acclaimed features like “Prisoners”, “Sicario” “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049”, particularly targeted AT&T, saying that the company’s decision is motivated by its own survival as it has a debt of more than USD 150 billion.

“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.

“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.”

Though Villeneuve praised streaming services for their content and place in the media landscape, he made clear that they alone can’t save movies during this time of unparalleled crisis.

The studio had originally dated “Dune”, which is an official adaptation of author Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 novel, for December 18 this year but the coronavirus pandemic forced it to push the movie back to October 1, 2021.

Villeneuve said he supported the studio’s decision to delay ‘Dune’ as he was confident that normalcy would return by that time.

“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,” he added.

Villeneuve said he stands in solidarity with other filmmakers whose films now stare at the “same fate.”

“I strongly believe the future of cinema will be on the big screen, no matter what any Wall Street dilettante says. Since the dawn of time, humans have deeply needed communal storytelling experiences.

“Cinema on the big screen is more than a business, it is an art form that brings people together, celebrating humanity, enhancing our empathy for one another — it’s one of the very last artistic, in-person collective experiences we share as human beings,” he added.

Believing that the theatres will thronged with cinema lovers when the pandemic is over, Villeneuve urged AT&T to “act swiftly with the same responsibility, respect and regard to protect this vital cultural medium“.

“Economic impact to stakeholders is only one aspect of corporate social responsibility. Finding ways to enhance culture is another. The moviegoing experience is like no other.

“In those darkened theatres films capture our history, educate us, fuel our imagination and lift and inspire our collective spirit. It is our legacy,” he said.

The filmmaker ended his article with the slogan “Long live theatrical cinema!”

“Dune” features a star-studded cast of Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem.

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 12:44:36 AM |

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