Director Christopher Nolan voices his concerns about the “danger” of films that release directly to streaming. Known for his mind-bending films that regularly employ time as a thematic device, Nolan has had huge success this year with his biopic Oppenheimer. Released in theaters in July, Oppenheimer had a strong theatrical run, making nearly $1 billion at the worldwide box office.
Nolan has concerns about the fate of streaming-only movies revealed in an interview with The Washington Post. In the absence of physical media, Nolan expressed his worries about when “things only exist in the streaming version” and then “get taken down.” He believes that “the accessibility of [filmmakers’] work” is something that deserves the utmost protection, but is something at severe risk when there is a risk of “a filmmaker’s film just sort of disappearing from streaming one day and then maybe not coming back or not coming back for a long period of time.” Check out the full quote from Nolan below:
With Nolan potentially returning to work for Warner Bros, he conceptualizes streaming services as the double-edged sword that it is. On the one hand, streaming giants like Netflix allow films to be made as streaming exclusives that preclude the need for a theatrical time slot in a competitive market. On the other hand, there is a “danger” in eschewing physical or rental copies for streaming-only, in that it leaves these films in a precarious position should streamers decide to rid themselves of the titles.
In reality, what Nolan fears is happening on streaming services is indeed happening. Just recently, filmmakers behind an underseen fantasy epic called The Princess rejoiced as their Hulu film became re-available for VOD rental after Hulu yanking the film this past May made the work effectively disappear for six months. Other platforms, including Disney+, have been pulling underperforming original titles in droves to clear the way for newer works.
Looking at these examples, it is clear that Nolan’s anxieties on behalf of streaming-only filmmakers is not unfounded fear-mongering, but tangible consequences of an ongoing trend. Streaming is an incredibly effective tool for innovation and opportunity, but one that clearly comes at great risk to creators who rely on those platforms for exposure. With streaming services still relatively nascent in the great scheme of cinema history, hopefully, this issue can be amended as Neftlix, Disney+, Prime Video, and more continue their media reign.