In the years since streaming video began taking over the home entertainment landscape, it has received a good deal of pushback from traditional Hollywood. The larger streaming services have become, and the more money they have to throw around town, the harder it is to come by filmmakers who remain uncompromising...but until very recently, that list included Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan. Extolling the virtues of the "theatrical experience" has been a consistent refrain, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and studios started pushing bigger and bigger titles to direct home release via streaming platforms. That's nothing new for either, but particularly for Nolan, who has been known to release his movies in 70mm and then demand no changes be made, resulting in a situation where many cinemas can't screen them.
Now, though, Netflix has hopes that they might be able to attract Nolan regardless. The streamer, fresh off making a deal with Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, says that they are having conversations with Nolan about what a partnership with Netflix might look like.
"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," said Netflix film chief Scott Stuber (via Variety). "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."
Ironically, the word is Nolan is looking for a new studio to call home...because Warner Bros. decided to release its 2021 releases on HBO Max, bypassing theaters for many of them. Nolan's last film, Tenet, was released as a theatrical exclusive, but that came as a result of Nolan throwing his considerable weight around. Warner was reportedly not yet ready to ask moviegoers to return to cinemas less than six months after the COVID-19 restrictions took effect in the U.S., but Nolan and exhibitors believed that having some tentpole movies on the big screen would help theaters begin to claw their way back from the damage done by closing their doors for months.
The Spielberg deal is intended to bring Netflix's film presence farther into the mainstream, and create buzz around direct-to-streaming films. They have tried, and had some success, with projects like David Ayer's Bright, Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, and Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead, but none of those have managed to capture the zeitgeist in the way a $100 million opening weekend does. This is something that Stuber says Netflix is aware of, and trying to fix. In addition to adding these filmmakers, and having conversations with Nolan, Netflix has purchased theaters in New York and Los Angeles, where they can have premiere events for their biggest projects.
Nevertheless, most of the biggest, buzziest Netflix projects tend to be TV shows like Stranger Things and Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness. Clearly they are capable of attracting enough attention to drive the pop culture conversation. The question is how to do it with a single feature film rather than dozens of hours of bingeable content.