'Dune' Director Denis Villeneuve Slams WB's HBO Max Decision, AMC Needs $750 Million To Survive 2021

"Warner Bros. might have just killed the Dune franchise."

Denis Villeneuve, the filmmaker behind the mega-budgeted movie adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel, does not mince words in a new editorial published by Variety. After being blindsided by the news that Warner Bros. is releasing its entire 2021 slate of films (including Dune) in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously, Villeneuve blasted the studio's parent company in this new editorial, saying, "AT&T has hijacked one of the most respectable and important studios in film history."

Read more of his comments below, and get the latest update about what AMC Theatres will need to stay viable through the next year.

Denis Villeneuve HBO Max Comments

"There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here," Villeneuve writes of the studio's decision, saying that WB's "sudden reversal from being a legacy home for filmmakers to the new era of complete disregard draws a clear line" and indicates that they are no longer on the same side.

He acknowledges that streaming services are a "positive and powerful addition to the movie and TV ecosystems," but wants to be clear that there's a difference in the type of content that's made for the big screen and the type that isn't. "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." He says Dune is "by far the best movie [he's] ever made," and emphasizes how much work went into preparing it for a theatrical release, including the multiple release date delays which were intended to allow the movie to open during a safer time in a post-pandemic world.

"I strongly believe the future of cinema will be on the big screen, no matter what any Wall Street dilettante says," he writes, ending with a call to action for AT&T: "So, just as I have both a fiduciary and creative responsibility to fulfill as the filmmaker, I call on AT&T to act swiftly with the same responsibility, respect and regard to protect this vital cultural medium. Economic impact to stakeholders is only one aspect of corporate social responsibility. Finding ways to enhance culture is another."

Sounds like that planned Dune sequel and HBO Max spin-off TV series about the Bene Gesserit may not happen after all.

AMC's Future Looks Bleak

The country's biggest theater chain has been hit hard by the pandemic, and in a new filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company lays out its future in pretty dire terms. Despite just raising $100 million, AMC says it needs $750 million to stay viable through 2021 – and even then, it could still face bankruptcy if the public doesn't return to theaters in significant numbers throughout next year.

"A significant spike in coronavirus cases, together with delays of major movie releases or the direct or simultaneous release of movie titles to the home video or streaming markets in lieu of theatre exhibition, have led to theatre closures, prevented the opening of theatres in major markets and have had, and are expected to continue to have in the future, a material adverse impact on theatre attendance levels and our business," the filing stated (via Deadline). "These challenges have been exacerbated by the announcement by Warner Bros. that its entire studio film slate for 2021 will move to simultaneous release, which may result in other studios adopting a similar strategy."

Things continue to look bleak for theatrical exhibition, and we'll have to wait and see if they can hang on long enough for people to return to theaters in droves once a vaccine is widely distributed.