Director Denis Villeneuve condemned Warner Bros.’ decision to move its 2021 slate of films — including his upcoming adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction epic “Dune” — to HBO Max in a strongly worded Variety editorial published Friday.
The director said that he did not appreciate Warner Bros. using stills from “Dune” to promote its streaming service and called out parent company AT&T for a decision that “hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history.”
“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 said he did not have anything against streaming services. He added that he valued public health and supported the decision to delay “Dune,” which was originally scheduled to open Nov. 20 but was pushed to Oct. 1 next year because of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, the director said he felt that streaming is incapable of conveying “Dune’s” scope and pointed out that COVID-19 vaccinations will likely allow moviegoers to return to theaters by the end of next year.
“Warner Bros.’ decision means ‘Dune’ won’t have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable, and piracy will ultimately triumph,” Villeneuve said. “Warner Bros. might just have killed the ‘Dune’ franchise.”
The French Canadian filmmaker’s previous film was 2019’s “Blade Runner 2049,” which was critically praised but flopped at the box office.
Villeneuve took aim at AT&T CEO John Stankey, who said earlier this week that COVID-19 had forced the streaming horse to leave the barn. “In truth, the horse left the barn for the slaughterhouse,” Villeneuve wrote.
Villeneuve is the second major filmmaker to voice dismay at Warner Bros.’ decision. “The Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan expressed similar concerns earlier this week.
Actors Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa, who both star in “Dune,” voiced support for Villeneuve’s viewpoint on Friday and shared his editorial on social media. “Long live the theatre experience,” Brolin wrote.