Christopher Nolan No Fan of Netflix Distribution20 Jul, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Director Christopher Nolan’s movies typically resonate at the epic level. Films such as the "Dark Knight" trilogy, Inception and Interstellar play well theatrically — especially on 70mm Imax screens.
Nolan’s latest effort, World War II historical drama Dunkirk, about the Allies’ desperate effort to evacuate tens of thousands of stranded troops from the French beaches of Dunkirk ahead of the rapidly advancing German army, debuts theatrically July 21 nationwide.
In Dunkirk press junkets, the director was asked about Netflix and its controversial approach releasing original movies through streaming channels globally with little thought given to theatrical distribution.
The idea of streaming a movie like Dunkirk concurrently with theatrical baffles Nolan.
“Netflix has a bizarre aversion to supporting theatrical films,” Nolan told . “They have this mindless policy of everything having to be simultaneously streamed and released, which is obviously an untenable model for theatrical presentation. So they’re not even getting in the game, and I think they’re missing a huge opportunity.”
Indeed, Amazon Prime Video says it will honor the traditional theatrical window for its movies — a strategy that paid off for Manchester by the Sea, which won both Oscars and Golden Globes, among other critical acclaim.
Netflix’s first original movie — Beasts of No Nation — garnered much critical acclaim, but few awards. Theater operators boycotted the movie.
Nolan calls the SVOD pioneer’s strategy “pointless.”
He said a movie like Dunkirk should transport viewers back in time as if they were watching events unfold before them. And the only way to do that is on a big screen with appropriate HD sound.
Interestingly, Warner Bros., which is distributing Dunkirk, is aggressively pursuing early in-home digital access to theatrical movies via premium VOD.
“Customers are telling us they want more choices with how and where they watch content,” Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Warner Bros., told attendees at CinemaCon in March.
Nolan isn’t buying it. He said that when the disc market boomed, the worst thing a studio could tell a director at the time was that their film was going straight to DVD. He characterized Wall Street’s affinity for Netflix’s “disruptive” tactics as shortsighted.
“The idea that … disrupting the existing distribution mechanism has somehow assigned a kind of futuristic value to something that’s always been about lowest common denominator. That kind of became a buzzword a few years ago. If Netflix has made a great film, they should put it in theaters. Why not stream it 90 days later?”