The cinematic world was dealt a bit of a shock last week when Warner Bros. announced that they would be releasing their entire 2021 theatrical slate simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. Audiences weren’t the only ones caught off guard when the announcement was made as it seems that the creative teams behind the movies had little idea of the studio’s plans.
Denis Villenueve’s DUNE is slated to hit theaters on October 1, 2021, but under the new deal, it will also debut on the HBO Max streaming service on the very same day. In a piece written for Variety, Villeneuve took aim at Warner Bros.’ parent company AT&T and blasted the plan.
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. 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.
Villenueve 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.” As we know, a sequel to Dune is already being planned, but Villeneuve went on to say that the deal could possibly kill the franchise before it begins “Streaming services are a positive and powerful addition to the movie and TV ecosystems,” Villenueve explained. “But I want the audience to understand 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.” Villenueve acknowledges that “public safety comes first” and had fully supported Warner Bros.’ choice to delay the opening of Dune, but he strongly believes that the future of cinema will be on the big-screen and calls upon 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 theaters films capture our history, educate us, fuel our imagination and lift and inspire our collective spirit. It is our legacy.“
Denis Villeneuve isn’t the first to speak out against the HBO Max plan, as AMC Theatres have also denounced the plan and Legendary Entertainment is also considering legal action. Tenet director Christopher Nolan also had some harsh words, saying that “Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.” Yikes.