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Dune movie remake director Denis Villeneuve criticizes HBO Max deal

"Warner Bros. might just have killed the Dune franchise. There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here. It is all about the survival of a telecom mammoth," Villeneuve said.

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides in Dune.
Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures

When news hit on Dec. 4 that the highly anticipated Dune movie remake would be available to see both in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on Oct. 1, 2021, fans were excited to have two different options to view the film. Dune's director Denis Villeneuve, however, wasn't as thrilled. 

Villeneuve revealed his concerns about Dune streaming on HBO Max the same day as its theatrical release in a scathing commentary piece for Variety on Thursday.

"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. "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."

Villeneuve also warns that streaming services like HBO Max can't sustain the film industry as it was before COVID and that decision to have Dune released on HBO Max will have devastating effects.


Director Denis Villeneuve and actor Javier Bardem on the set of Dune.

Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures

"Streaming can produce great content, but not movies of Dune's scope and scale," Villeneuve wrote. "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."

Strong words indeed. Villeneuve also remarked that he was perfectly fine with the initial decision to delay the theatrical release date of Dune from 2020 to 2021 when COVID concerns might hopefully be a thing of the past. He still believes Dune should be seen in a movie theater as he intended, not viewed on a TV screen or laptop via HBO Max's streaming service.

"Dune is by far the best movie I've ever made," Villeneuve added. "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. I strongly believe the future of cinema will be on the big screen, no matter what any Wall Street dilettante says."


Oscar Isaac looking ready to battle as Duke Leto Atreides in Dune.  

Warner Bros. Pictures

"Cinema on the big screen is more than a business, it is an art form that brings people together, celebrating humanity, enhancing our empathy for one another -- it's one of the very last artistic, in-person collective experiences we share as human beings," Villeneuve added. 

Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. In addition to Chalamet, Dune stars Oscar IsaacZendayaCharlotte RamplingDave BautistaJason MomoaJavier BardemJosh BrolinRebecca Ferguson and Stellan Skarsgård.

Villeneuve isn't the only director who has publicly said he's not happy about HBO Max streaming movies on the same day of their theatrical release dates. 

Tenet director Christopher Nolan, who is also known for being especially protective of the theatrical experience for films, said in a statement that HBO Max is "the worst streaming service" and that Warner Bros.' streaming strategy will harm the studio's relationship with filmmakers and actors.


Director Christopher Nolan and actor John David Washington on the set of Tenet.

Warner Bros. Pictures

"Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker's work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak," Nolan said on Dec. 7. "They don't even understand what they're losing."

AT&T Chief Executive John Stankey responded last week to Nolan's criticism with the reminder that COVID-19 concerns have changed how studios must release movies outside of the traditional theater model. 

"Fundamentally, one of the unfortunate effects of the pandemic is there basically has been no theatrical exhibition business. And that's painful for a lot of people," Stankey said. "Our feeling is there's a win-win-win type of solution. There's a win for us. There's a win for our customers, and there's a win for our partners. And anytime you're going to change a model, it creates a degree of noise -- and this is certainly no exception."