Dune director Denis Villeneuve fired off a scathing essay Thursday night that blasted Warner Bros. decision to stream its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max, and two major stars are already backing him. In the op-ed, Villeneuve doesn’t hold back his anger and frustration at the studio for making the decision without even consulting him, and at one point suggests that “Warner Bros. might just have killed the Dune franchise.” Calling the HBO Max move a “hijacking,” Villeneuve echoed Christopher Nolan‘s earlier criticisms that Warner Bros. switched overnight from a studio that champions filmmakers to a lackluster streaming service. The Arrival director laid the blame at AT&T’s feet. Via Variety:
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. Therefore, even though “Dune” is about cinema and audiences, AT&T is about its own survival on Wall Street.
While Villeneuve doesn’t deny that public safety comes first, he says he readily made the concession to delay Dune up to a year so that it can be viewed safely in theaters where it is meant to be seen. The director also said that “no matter what any Wall Street dilettante says,” the future of films will be the big screen. “That is my strong belief. Not because the movie industry needs it,” Villeneuve wrote, “but because we humans need cinema, as a collective experience.”
Shortly after his op-ed was published, Villeneuve received support from Dune stars Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa who both shared his essay on Instagram with the message “Long live the theater experience!”