Bashing Netflix has officially become the favorite pastime of our generation’s great auteurs. Following Pedro Almodovar’s harsh words for the streaming giant at this year’s Cannes, Christopher Nolan is the latest boldface director to criticize the company’s controversial release strategy.
“Netflix has a bizarre aversion to supporting theatrical films,” he told IndieWire. “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.”
It’s no surprise that Nolan would take issue with a service that essentially discourages audiences to go to the theater. Nolan makes movies on a grand scale, and is a huge champion of both the ultra-rare 70mm format and IMAX. His latest film, the WWII epic Dunkirk, was tailor-made to be seen on the largest format possible. “This is a story that needs to carry you through the suspenseful situation, and make you feel like you are there, and the only way to do that is through theatrical distribution,” he said.
But not all movies beg that treatment. Very few filmmakers have the privilege of making movies the way Nolan makes them if they even get to make movies at all. Netflix not only supports filmmakers on the fringe of the industry but it also gives them the creative freedom to make the movie they want to make. Joe Swanberg likely wouldn’t have a career without Netflix.
And while Netflix has certainly disrupted the traditional theatrical release model, it hasn’t obliterated it. Films like Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation and Bong Joon-ho’s Okja both had theatrical releases on the same day they became available for streaming, which gave those who may not be able to afford going to the movies a chance to experience those films.
The bad news is that prestige filmmakers—Martin Scorsese is making The Irsishman for the streaming service later this year—are buying into Netflix as the most viable way to get their movies made. It’s only a matter of time before they start luring other major directors as well.
The good news for Nolan is that the playing field is big enough for the both of them. For as long as he wants to continue making films for theaters, there will be people willing to buy tickets. No real fan of Nolan’s films would dare see Dunkirk on anything but the big screen. Remember Chris, if you make them, we will come.