Earlier this month, Warner Bros. made the surprising decision to announce that all of their 2021 films would be released in theaters and on HBO Max the same way that Wonder Woman 1984 is coming out later this month. To say that this news has not gone over well would be an understatement. It sounds like very few people knew about the decision before it happened, and there was a good chance that this was by design. Two of the movies caught up in the scandal are Legendary's Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong. Legendary, who put reportedly 75% of the budgets for the two movies, didn't know about this movie and could be challenging Warner Bros. on the decision. If they did, they would have the support of Dune director Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve wrote an op-ed for Variety where he very blatantly called out Warner Bros. for the decision.
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.
Villeneuve went on to say that Warner Bros. is "no longer on the same team" filmmakers.
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.
This is not to say that the Dune director doesn't see the good in streaming services. In fact, he calls them "a positive and powerful addition to the movie and TV ecosystems." However, he points out that streaming services alone can't carry the film industry as we knew it in the pre-COVID-19 days and that massive scale movies like Dune wouldn't happen. He even believes that this could be a franchise killer for Dune, which could have gone on to have multiple sequels based on other books. Villeneuve went on to say that he understands that public safety comes first, which is why he supported the decision to move the movie from December 2020 to October 2021.
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 theaters in October 2021, when vaccinations will be advanced and, hopefully, the virus behind us. Science tells us that everything should be back to a new normal next fall.
He believes that there is a future for movie theaters and that he stands with the sixteen other directors who had their projects moved to a hybrid release model with this decision. If you'd like to read Villeneuve's full thoughts on the decision to put Dune and other movies on HBO Max the same day as they are getting released in theaters, click here.
Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Issac, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Stellen Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, and Charlotte Rampling, is set to open in theaters and on HBO Max on October 1, 2021.