“Dune” Director Denis Villeneuve Is Also Not Happy About Warner Bros. Streaming Their Movies On HBO Max
It’s no secret that Warner Bros. choice to dump their entire slate of 2021 film releases onto HBO Max went over like a mouse turd in a bag of movie theater popcorn. Some industry people hate the idea that Warner Bros. will release all of their 2021 films in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time. One of the movies to get the HBO Max boot is Denis Villeneuve’s remake of Dune, and Denis has thoughts about it.
So far, we’ve heard from Legendary Entertainment, who produced Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong (also in theaters and streaming on HBO Max next year), and they’re reportedly thinking of suing Warner Bros. over it because the decision could end up costing them a whole lot of money. We’ve also gotten director Christopher Nolan’s thoughts on the situation, the gist of which is that he hates it. Denis is a Canadian person, so you might think his statement on the matter would be polite and measured. But Denis is actually French Canadian, aka Zesty Canadian, which is to say it’s still pretty measured, but a lot sassier. Denis wrote an open letter that was published by Variety, and in it he describes HBO Max as a “failure“, and calls out AT&T, who owns Warner Media, saying the choice proves they have “no love for cinema” or “for the audience.”
With this decision AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history…It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth, one that is currently bearing an astronomical debt of more than $150 billion…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.
He also explained that he’s mad because Dune could potentially lose a bunch of money. But more than that, it’s because a movie like Dune wasn’t filmed to be seen on a laptop screen while snuggled deep in a duvet nest in your bed.
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.
Denis also believes that rather than rush moves onto in-home streaming services, studios should be patient, because this COVID thing can’t last forever, right? RIGHT?!
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.
Dune would be Denis’ third film released by Warner Bros. (the first being Prisoners and Blade Runner 2049). He says: “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.” So, like Christopher Nolan before him, no one should be surprised if Denis Villeneuve switches to any team other than Warner Bros. in the future.
And speaking of Christopher Nolan, he might be the reason why Warner Bros. decided to dump everything on HBO Max in the first place. Tenet was released in September, at a time when not a whole lot of people wanted to see movies in person (or, depending on their state’s lockdown protocol, could even get in the front door of their local AMC). Tenet underperformed at the box office in a big way, which pushed a whole lot of 2020 releases in the hopes they could wait until things opened back up and movies could make money again. When it was clear that wasn’t going to happen any time soon, Warner Bros. announced that Wonder Woman 1984 will be released on December 25th in theaters and on HBO Max. And not long after, all 17 of Warner Bros. 2021 films were announced to be doing the same. IndieWire reports that Warner Bros. was pretty much thinking solely with their wallets on this one:
According to WarnerMedia CEO Ann Sarnoff, it was Tenet’s US theatrical release that led to the decision.
“We learned a lot about the inclination of people to go to theaters when they’re open, obviously,” Sarnoff told CNBC on Tenet’s release. Tenet earned less than $60 million at the US box office; Nolan’s 2010 film Inception, by comparison, hauled in more than $290 million domestically.
Sarnoff noted that Tenet’s international box office, in places with more open theaters, performed far better.
“What we learned through Tenet is that the US is not quite ready yet to fully reopen and have full engagement of fans back into theaters, hence this new strategy.”
I understand that Warner Media wants to see a return on their investment NOW, but literally just wait like five seconds until theaters start opening up again. Will they make more money than their streaming plan? Who knows, but they’ll at least decrease their chances of hearing, “Wow, imagine fucking up the Dune franchise twice?”