Denis Villeneuve takes no prisoners.
It's no secret that filmmakers are massively upset at HBO Max for changing their titles to da-and-date. We heard from big names like Christopher Nolan and Patty Jenkins, but now Dune director Denis Villeneuve has entered the chat.
He has penned an open letter that tears apart HBO Max's plan and doubles down on his belief in cinema.
You can read the entire open letter on Variety. Let's go over some highlights.
Denis Villeneuve pens open letter to HBO Max
With the very opening paragraph, you know there's anger boiling. Villeneuve writes, "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."
The AT&T purchase of Warner Bros. has indeed changed almost everything. A company that makes its money outside of Hollywood, then dictating how Hollywood should operate, seems counter-intuitive. But since the only goal is to be profitable, and not to preserve an art form, they really do not care.
To his credit, Villeneuve sees a way these goals could live in peace if places like HBO Max let them.
He continued, "Streaming services are a positive and powerful addition to the movie and TV ecosystems. 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. 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. 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."
One of the more frustrating things about all of this is the pandemic element. It feels like large studios are hitting the panic button way too late. They could lose a little more money and then release these titles when the vaccine is distributed. But the industry is moving a certain way, and filmmakers are not really excited about that direction.
And they are unified in that feeling.
As Villeneuve writes, "I’m speaking on my own behalf, though I stand in solidarity with the sixteen other filmmakers who now face the same fate. Please know I am with you and that together we are strong. The artists are the ones who create movies and series."
I cannot fathom how HBO Max will keep buzzy titles and stories after pissing off so many creators. Sure, there are lots of writers and directors probably willing to fill the open slots, but having new projects from Nolan, Jenkins, and Villeneuve are not easy shoes to fill.
Maybe we will see a new generation of artists, or maybe we will see the platform shift entirely toward TV concepts and streaming content.
It seems like AT&T is steering that ship.
Villeneuve closes with this statement, and it's hopeful, writing, "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. Long live theatrical cinema!"
Long live cinema, indeed.
We are unsure what's next, but I can tell you the first thing I will do as a vaccinated person is go to the movies... maybe with my parents, because I haven't seen them in a year, and I probably should hang with them.
Let us know what you think in the comments.