Dune Director Slams Warner Bros Over HBO Max Release

The director called the move "a desperate attempt to grab the audience’s attention."

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In an opinion piece published on Variety, Dune director Denis Villeneuve has slammed the decision to debut Dune on streaming service HBO Max, saying he learned about the decision "in the news." The director has condemned the move as purely profit-based, placing blame on Warner Media's parent company AT&T for "[hijacking] one of the most respectable and important studios in film history."

In a surprise announcement earlier in December, Warner announced that its entire theatrical line-up would be releasing on HBO Max on the same day as its theatrical release. Legendary Entertainment, a co-financer on many of the films, has threatened legal action over the move.

Dune director Denis Villeneuve has been one of the most vocal critics of the move, writing "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."

"Streaming services are a positive and powerful addition to the movie and TV ecosystems," Villeneuve clarified. "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."

"Dune is by far the best movie I've ever made," he continued. "My team and I devoted more than three years of our lives to make it a unique big screen experience. Our movie's image and sound were meticulously designed to be seen in theaters."

The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc on the film industry in 2020, especially in regards to theatrical releases. Tenet, one of the first big blockbusters to debut after the pandemic shut cinemas down around the world, played to a disappointing domestic box office that led to other films pushing theatrical release dates back.

However some movies that prioritised digital releases have seen success, such as Trolls: World Tour, which out-earned its predecessor despite an entirely digital release. For directors like Tenet's Christopher Nolan (who has also criticized the HBO Max decision) and Dune's Denis Villeneuve, earnings are secondary to seeing their movies get the big-screen blockbuster experience.

"The moviegoing experience is like no other," Villeneuve concludes. "In those darkened theaters films capture our history, educate us, fuel our imagination and lift and inspire our collective spirit. It is our legacy."

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