“Dune” director Denis Villeneuve says AT&T “hijacked” Warner Bros. and has shown “absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience” in its industry-shaking move to put its 2021 slate on HBO Max day-and-date with theaters.
Villeneuve, in an op-ed written for Variety, said he only learned about the fate of his film by reading the news, and that he had agreed to push “Dune” back almost a year, from winter 2020 to October 2021. He says a movie of this scope can’t hope to be financially viable and will succumb to piracy.
“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,” Denis Villeneuve wrote. “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 teamwork and Warner Bros. has declared they are no longer on the same team.”
Villeneuve further called HBO Max a “failure thus far” and said the HBO Max move was “desperate” on the part of the studio. He clarified that while streaming is a valuable component to the industry, he argues it can’t sustain it alone and that this move might’ve killed “Dune” as a franchise.
He called “Dune” the “best movie” he’s ever made, in a career that also includes “Blade Runner 2049,” “Prisoners,” “Arrival,” “Incendies” and “Sicario.” But Villeneuve said he intended for “Dune” to be seen in a theater and that the theatrical experience is still crucial to experiencing art.
“I’m speaking on my own behalf, though I stand in solidarity with the sixteen other filmmakers who now face the same fate. Please know I am with you and that together we are strong,” he said. “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.”
Villeneuve concluded by calling on AT&T to “protect this vital cultural medium” and go beyond a devotion to shareholders.
“Once the pandemic is over, theaters will be filled again with film lovers. That is my strong belief. Not because the movie industry needs it, but because we humans need cinema, as a collective experience,” he said. “Long live theatrical cinema.”
Denis Villeneuve is one of several big-name directors who have lashed out at the surprise Warner Bros. news last week, including “Tenet” director Christopher Nolan. TheWrap previously reported that Legendary, the co-producer on “Dune,” is considering legal action against Warner Bros.
Read Villeneuve’s full op-ed in Variety here.