Cinema is losing its battle with COVID-19.
It's no secret that COVID is killing the box office. (Please go get vaccinated. I love movies.)
But it's hard to even know how bad the effects of COVID will be on the industry as a whole. One of the major worries right now is that Hollywood is losing so much money because of it that they will constrict after the pandemic is over and take fewer chances.
One of the tangible results of this constriction could be that we never get the second part of Denis Villeneuve's Dune. This movie was already an undertaking. It was adapted from an expansive book and was broken into two parts. They finished filming the first, and Warner Bros. was set to release it internationally. But thanks to the pandemic, now it's going on the HBO Max streaming platform simultaneously, and it will be very hard to turn a profit.
That could render the second part of the opus inert, especially if Warner Bros. doesn't see any money in making it.
As Villeneuve told Total Film in the new issue of the magazine, it was hard enough getting people behind Dune: Part One.
Villeneuve said, "So the first thing was to prove that there was a beautiful, popular movie that can exist, and I think that I proved that—everybody at Warner Bros. and Legendary, they are 100% behind the project. They feel that it would need a really bad outcome at the box office to not have a Dune: Part Two, because they love the movie. They are proud of the movie, so they want the movie to move forward. And they still did half of it. So, you know, I’m very optimistic."
He's optimistic, but he also is realistic about where we are.
"First of all, the enemy of cinema is the pandemic," he said. "That’s the thing. We understand that the cinema industry is under tremendous pressure right now. That I get. The way it happened, I’m still not happy. Frankly, to watch Dune on a television, the best way I can compare it is to drive a speedboat in your bathtub. For me, it’s ridiculous. It’s a movie that has been made as a tribute to the big-screen experience."
This scary future has not stopped him from working on the next iteration.
"I’m writing [Part Two] now, and I feel like I’m eight years old again," he said. "That’s very uncommon for me. It’s the first time I’ve experienced it where I’m watching one of my movies, and I have a moment of deep gratitude, of deep joy, and I say, 'Thank you, life, for having allowed me to bring that to the screen.' I don’t know how other people will feel about it. But me? Denis Villeneuve when he was 14 years old? Thank you."
We have to hold out hope the box office makes enough money and they see enough clicks on HBO Max for it to make sense to create the next movie in the series, but it's also possible to see something like this fall apart.
Dune is scheduled to open in U.S. cinemas and on HBO Max on Oct. 22, 2021. It will open in UK cinemas on Oct. 21, 2021. Depending on the numbers generated, we should hear about a sequel sometime in early January.
In order for Hollywood to continue and us to not see everything move to streaming, we need people to get vaccinated and we need this pandemic to end. The future of the business as we know it depends on it.