Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve found out about Warner Bros.’ decision to release their entire 2021 slate digitally and theatrically at the same time as everyone else. Now, the “Dune” filmmaker is slamming the studio’s announcement, calling it a franchise killer and promotional tactic for their U.S. streaming service.
“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,” he writes in a lengthy op-ed for Variety. “There is absolutely no love for cinema nor for the audience here.”
The company made the surprise announcement that, beginning with “Wonder Woman 1984” on Dec. 25, their 2021 releases, including high-profile movies “Dune”, “Godzilla vs. Kong”, “The Matrix 4”, “In The Heights”, “The Suicide Squad” and others, would debut simultaneously in theatres and on HBO Max in the U.S., where they will be available to watch for a 30-day period. However, Warner Bros. titles will only be available theatrically on their release date in Canada and will eventually move to Canadian streaming services following a traditional release window.
Telecomm giant AT&T, which owns Warner Bros., has “hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history,” according to Villeneuve. He joins Christopher Nolan and the producers of “Godzilla vs. Kong” in speaking out against the studio’s move, writing that he knows he stands in “solidarity” with the sixteen other filmmakers affected by Warner Bros.’ decision.
Among those backing Villeneuve’s stance are “Dune” actors Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin, who voiced their support for the director on Friday.
Calling it “a desperate attempt to grab the audience’s attention” and ease the company out of a $150-billion debt, Villeneuve expresses the decision has “drawn a clear line” on where the company stands in collaborative filmmaking.
The Canadian director was in full support of pushing “Dune”‘s release date from December 2020 to October 2021 out of public safety, but reminds audiences “that streaming alone can’t sustain the film industry as we knew it before COVID.”
“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,” he writes.
Citing scientific reports on the pandemic, Villeneuve writes, “Public safety comes first. Nobody argues with that. Which is why when it became apparent the winter would bring a second wave of the pandemic, I understood and supported the decision to delay “Dune”‘s opening by almost a year. The plan was that ‘Dune’ would open in theatres in October 2021, when vaccinations will be advanced and, hopefully, the virus behind us.”
Calling “Dune” “by far the best movie I’ve ever made,” the director says the film’s “image and sound were meticulously designed to be seen in theatres.”
“Once the pandemic is over, theatres will be filled again with film lovers,” he ends his op-ed with the rallying cry, “Long live theatrical cinema!”
“Dune” is currently scheduled to be released on Oct. 1, 2021.