Warner Bros. Dune.

Why Are So Many Directors Against Screeners and Streaming?

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Dune director Denis Villeneuve has been very candid about his dislike of the decision to put all of their 2021 movies in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time, on the same day. That opinion has seemingly not changed.

On Tuesday, in a new interview with Total Film, the director called the pandemic the “enemy of the cinema” and brought up the “tremendous pressure” that the industry is under to perform now. He also doubled down on some of his previous comments about the film’s move to streaming.

“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,” Villeneuve said. “For me, it’s ridiculous. It’s a movie that has been made as a tribute to the big-screen experience.”

In another interview with La Presse he continued that same train of thought saying, “I believe that there is, on the part of Warner, following the debate with HBO Max and everything that followed, a desire to say loud and clear that Dune is made to be seen on the big screen.” He went on:

“[…] when they announced the releases of the 2021 films on HBO Max simultaneously, we were in the unacceptable. Cinema is a team effort and you can’t let go of a team. We’ll see how all this evolves over time, but I would say that for now, in truth, my relationship with the people of Warner is excellent, as they really orchestrated a magnificent campaign for Dune. They believe in it and put a lot of effort into it.”

“So,” he continues, “it is important to say that these things happened when no one had seen the film yet. Once they saw it, I felt a change of attitude. I also insisted that no one receive a viewing link so that the film should be seen only on the big screen.”

I have empathy for how the pandemic has so deeply transformed the way that people involved in movie production have had to work. As everything around Black Widow and The Suicide Squad showed what makes a film a “hit” or a “flop” in 2021 is still unknown. We need a better way to figure out what “hits” these days beyond just box office receipts. With something like Dune, which needs to do well in order to have a sequel, I understand why it is important for Villeneuve to really make sure his film gets the best chance.

But that doesn’t mean making it harder to see for everyone is the answer. Film critics of color and from smaller nerd sites have already had a hard time getting access to some of the big blockbusters. If you don’t live in a major city, it makes things more difficult and forces you to make travel plans to simply do part of your job. Making screeners available allows more people to get access, including people with disabilities, who, in many cases, are finally being given access for the first time in a convenient way.

There are a lot of Warner Bros. films that I have watched because of the duel release. While it doesn’t have the same immersive spectacle as the cinema, it does invite people to be curious. Movies in cities are expensive and in a pandemic, not always the first priority of people’s plans. I am excited about Dune and I want to watch it in theaters, but I am vaccinated and wouldn’t even be going to a major AMC/Regal theater at this point in time.

What directors don’t seem to understand is that we are still in a pandemic where people are getting sick because of unvaccinated people. Unvaccinated people who insist on being out in the world, and will often happily head to those theaters. So going to the movies, especially if you have a compromised immune system, have unvaccinated children or family, etc., is a risk. It is a tricky place to be at, but until we have people actually doing the work to protect us, going to the physical movies is not going to be a priority in the same way it has been.

(via Yahoo, image: Warner Bros)

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