Dune director Denis Villeneuve is one of the latest to lament the news of the Warner Bros. and HBO Max deal, warning that it “might just have killed” his upcoming franchise.
In a shocking and groundbreaking move, Warner Bros. announced last week that they will debut 17 films, including the much anticipated Dune, on HBO Max the same day the films will hit theaters.
“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,” Villeneuve wrote in an essay for Variety. “With this decision, AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history.”
The director went on to pin HBO Max’s launch as a failure, accusing AT&T of sacrificing Warner Bros. — one of the most prominent entertainment conglomerates in the world — for “attention.”
“Warner Bros. might just have killed the Dune franchise,” he said. “This one is for the fans. AT&T’s John Stankey said that the streaming horse left the barn. In truth, the horse left the barn for the slaughterhouse.”
“Just as I have both a fiduciary and creative responsibility to fulfill as the filmmaker, I call on AT&T to act swiftly with the same responsibility, respect, and regard to protect this vital cultural medium,” he continued, later adding, “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.”
Directors, entertainment industry workers, and film lovers have already expressed their disapproval of the deal, fearing for the future of theaters and movie-going.
Most notably, Christopher Nolan, whose film Tenet was released by Warner Bros. and was one of the only big-budget films to make it to theaters this year, railed against the move in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter.
The King of Staten Island director Judd Apatow also criticized the decision in a recent Variety interview:
“It’s somewhat shocking that a studio for their entire slate could call what appears to be nobody,” he said. “It’s the type of disrespect that you hear about in the history of show business. But to do that to just every single person that you work with is really somewhat stunning.”
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