Chris Nolan Walks Back His Netflix Comments

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan has walked back a bit from his comments earlier this year regarding streaming giant Netflix.

Back in July the famed champion of the theatrical experience, out doing promotional rounds for “Dunkirk,” had some not so charitable words to say regarding Netflix and their approach to distribution. At the time the ever polite Brit said:

“Netflix has a bizarre aversion to supporting theatrical films. 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.

I think the investment that Netflix is putting into interesting filmmakers and interesting projects would be more admirable if it weren’t being used as some kind of bizarre leverage against shutting down theaters. It’s so pointless. I don’t really get it”

In the months since, Nolan has cooled down a bit on those comments – even going so far as to send Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos a written apology. Speaking to Variety, Nolan remains true to his pro-cinematic exhibition stance but says he could’ve worded his comments better:

“I should have been more polite. I said what I believe, but I was undiplomatic in the way I expressed it. I wasn’t giving any context to the frankly revolutionary nature of what Netflix has done. It’s extraordinary. They need appropriate respect for that, which I have.”

Nolan goes on to explain a bit more about his viewpoint, saying he sees film and television as very different things and feels that the idea of them being lumped together as ‘content’ diminishes film:

“I view movies and television as different, and the conventional thinking right now is that they must converge and become the same thing. A scenario in which movies and television become more similar elevates television but diminishes movies.

Every other industry, whether it’s the car industry or whatever, controls when a product is launched. The idea that the film business should forget that and just throw everything together at the same time makes no sense. It’s not good business, and people will realize that eventually.

My entire adult life they have released straight-to-video films. As a filmmaker, when I was starting out in the 1990s, your nightmare was the straight-to-video release. There’s nothing new about it – what’s different and new about it is selling it to Wall Street as innovation or disruption.”

Appearing at Summit LA this week, Neftlix CEO and co=founder Reed Hastings indicated (via Fast Company) that Netflix is less worried about other streaming rivals and exhibition than it is other things that can take up potential viewer’s attention:

“Sometimes employees at Netflix think, ‘Oh my god, we’re competing with FX, HBO, or Amazon, but think about if you didn’t watch Netflix last night: What did you do? There’s such a broad range of things that you did to relax and unwind, hang out, and connect–and we compete with all of that,” he explained, adding: “You get a show or a movie you’re really dying to watch, and you end up staying up late at night, so we actually compete with sleep. And we’re winning!”

He’s also a big fan of binge watching saying “it’s great because it puts you in control, you have complete flexibility.” Nolan’s “Dunkirk” comes to Digital HD on December 12th.