Back in 2017, lauded filmmaker Christopher Nolan adamantly stated that he’d never make a movie for Netflix, calling the streaming service’s day-and-date release strategy “mindless.” But a lot has changed in four years, and Netflix film chief Scott Stuber says he’s angling to release Nolan’s next movie.
Nolan subsequently apologized for his comments back in 2017, saying he “should have been more polite,” but stood by his assertion that the day-and-date release strategy – releasing a movie on streaming and in theaters on the same day – was not for him. Of course, just last year Nolan’s home studio Warner Bros. did just that, announcing that every 2021 WB new release would hit HBO Max and theaters on the same day. Nearly eight months into the year, the studio has held firm, but Nolan also didn’t hold back when the strategy was first announced as it became clear that perhaps Nolan might not make his next movie with Warner Bros. after all.
The Inception filmmaker has long been an advocate for theatrical exhibition, and indeed whatever you think of Nolan he single-handedly saved the film stock industry by rallying fellow filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams to get studios to agree to purchase a set amount of film stock per year, keeping Kodak in business which in turn would prevent filmmakers like Nolan and Spielberg from going digital.
But as the world has changed, so too has Netflix. The streaming service held firm to its day-and-date model for years, until they became stewards of Martin Scorsese’s new film and gave The Irishman an exclusive theatrical engagement for nearly four weeks before it hit Netflix. Subscribers didn’t rebel, and the world continued to turn – even as Stuber faced resistance from Netflix higher-ups for the decision.
And in a new profile piece over at Variety, Stuber says he’s going to work hard to convince Nolan to make his next film at Netflix:
“If and when he comes up with his new movie, it’s about can we be a home for it and what would we need to do to make that happen. He’s an incredible filmmaker. I’m going to do everything I can. In this business I’ve learned you need to have zero ego. I get punched and knocked down and get back up.”
Honestly, if ever there was a time for Nolan to hop over to Netflix it’s now. While the streamer has kept its day-and-date model largely intact, the exceptions are becoming more pronounced. Zack Snyder’s zombie movie Army of the Dead got Netflix’s widest theatrical release thus far a week before it hit the streamer, and upcoming prestige dramas like Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up and Paolo Sorrentino’s Hand of God will be given exclusive theatrical releases ranging from one week to nearly four weeks later this year. The Irishman was far from a one-time thing.
Moreover, now that Netflix has a first-look deal with Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, Stuber says they hope to convince the legendary filmmaker to direct one of those projects himself, and David Fincher and Noah Baumbach both recently signed deals to make movies for Netflix for the next few years.
When Nolan blasted Netflix back in 2017, most studios were still abiding by a 90-day theatrical window – they waited at least three months before any new release could hit a streaming service or be available on VOD. That model disintegrated in 2020 due to the pandemic, and you now have studios like Warner Bros. going day-and-date (though they maintain it’s only for 2021) while other studios like Paramount are keeping an exclusive theatrical window before streaming but it’s shorter – 45 days instead of 90. And then you had Nolan and WB stubbornly releasing Tenet only in theaters in September, unsurprisingly grossing far less than Nolan’s other recent films.
If there was ever a filmmaker Netflix would make such a stunning exception for it would be Nolan, and with the director seemingly on the outs with WB, it feels like the promise of a 30- or 45-day theatrical window plus complete creative freedom could be enough to lure him to Netflix. That is, if and when his next new movie arrives.