Christopher Nolan slams Netflix's movie policies

By midian182 ยท 30 replies
Jul 20, 2017
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  1. It may have over 100 million worldwide subscribers and be valued at $78 billion, but not everyone is a fan of Netflix. Christopher Nolan, director of The Dark Knight and Inception, falls into that category, having just slammed the streaming site’s business model.

    In an interview with IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, the Dunkirk director said Netflix has a “bizarre aversion” to supporting theater releases. He called the company’s practice of simultaneously releasing movies in cinemas and making them available to stream an “untenable model for theatrical presentations.”

    “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,” Nolan said. “It’s so pointless. I don’t really get it.”

    Nolan has long been an advocate of classic movie making and the traditional theater experience. During the CinemaCon conference in March, he told the audience that new WWII production Dunkirk needed to “make you feel like you are there, and the only way to do that is through theatrical distribution.” But given some of the more lavish home cinema technologies that are available today, many would likely disagree with his statements.

    Netflix has faced this type of criticism before. At the Cannes film festival in May, it was argued that two of Netflix’s movies, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories, shouldn’t be considered for awards as they only received limited theater releases. Okja also faced a boycott by South Korean theaters; a protest against Netflix streaming the title.

    Nolan may be right about the benefits of giant screens, IMAX, and the deafening sound effects on offer to theater goers, but on the flip side is the ever increasing cost of tickets, extortionate food/drink prices, and those people who can’t leave their smartphones alone for 90 minutes.

    Not all within the industry are anti-Netflix. There are many, such as Okja’s Bong Joon-ho and Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, who have praised the creative freedom the site gives its filmmakers. But as for Nolan, don’t expect to see him working with the company anytime soon. When asked if he would ever consider joining forces on a project, he said “No. Well, why would you? If you make a theatrical film, it’s to be played in theaters.”

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  2. RevD14

    RevD14 TS Booster Posts: 88   +92

    You need to add people who won't shut up in theaters to that list of cons. I had some dumb lady next to me loudly singing the wrong lyrics to Brandy when I went to watch Guardians 2.
  3. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 902   +457

    Or people who laugh at things that weren't that funny; they're the only ones laughing.
  4. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,919   +2,274

    Oh, the exquisites of today's cinema...
    • Popcorn munching, plus the smell of it
    • Alcohol spillage, can-opening noises
    • Someone pushing your seat or pulling legs through
    • People jumping over you to the toilet and back
    • Heavy breathers, nose blowers and fart artists
    • Chatter, dumb giggles
    • Mobile phones ringing, vibrating, sparkling
    • Inappropriate public kissing, including same-sex
    • Sitting next to a skank or a narker
    • Shifty and fidgety kids
    • Filthy seats
    • Can't pause (my favorite)

    ...just to name a few.

    Perhaps Mr. Nolan hasn't been in a modern public theater. He wouldn't be able to sit through his own movie.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
  5. That Other Guy

    That Other Guy TS Enthusiast Posts: 47   +25

    I must say that I prefer to stay at home and watch a film, albeit not nearly as immersive as a cinema experience, I can watch at my leisure. not to mention there are several releases not worth $20+ to me. but on the other hand there are the few that I will pony up the cash to go see in a decked out theatre, even with the annoyances of the rest of you humans.
    killmess, gamoniac and TempleOrion like this.
  6. GreenNova343

    GreenNova343 TS Maniac Posts: 270   +163

    What I think Mr. Nolan is forgetting is that a) Netflix is not the only online streaming service that does this, & b) I strongly suspect that it's the movie companies releasing these films (either with or without the blessing of the director and/or producers) that are making the decision to simultaneously release to theater & streaming, not Netflix.

    And from a financial perspective, there's no benefit to Netflix to simulcast these movies. They already get their subscriber payments whether people watch those movies or not, & I highly doubt that their subscription numbers significantly increased in conjunction with those releases. But I'm sure the production companies were very happy, because they most likely received a big lump-sum payment from Netflix as part of the deal (instead of having to wait for box office receipts like normal).
    killmess likes this.
  7. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,459   +774

    No, has nothing to do with "supporting theatrical releases"
    It has to do with OVERPRICED boring movies, reboot movies, part 4,5,6 movies
    people who talk, text on their phones, people who won't SHUT UP, over priced
    concessions, parking issues, traffic problems. When a lot of people, have a large
    wide screen tv, with good sound, and, can watch a good movie IN THEIR OWN HOME
    not having to put up with what you have to put up with to GET to a movie theater,
    why not!
  8. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,616   +1,233

    I'll add floors so dirty that you almost stick to them - virtually every theater from one chain in our area has this problem - not to mention moldy popcorn at one of this chain's locations.

    Also poor sound and noise from the surrounding theaters in multiplexes. My sound system is probably better than all but two of the theaters in our area.

    I know people are not going to agree with me on this, but IMO, IMAX has loud sound, but not great sound - at least the IMAX near me. I think its sound is tinny on the high end as a result of their extensive use of horn tweeters.

    We had some woman who brought her three kids one of which was probably four or five, could not keep still, had to go to the bathroom two times within 15-minutes. I was wondering why she was bringing a child so young to the theater when much of the humor in that film is aimed at adults. Stuff like this all but ruins, IMO, the theater experience no matter how good a film is.

    Unfortunately, I think Mr. Nolan is verging on "spoiled brat" behavior; Hollywood would do well to be a bit more cautious as to whom they give "carte blanche" control. I would have loved to have Mr. Nolan sitting next to that woman in GoG 2. Perhaps his opinion would be different.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
    TempleOrion and Reehahs like this.
  9. Mighty Duck

    Mighty Duck TS Booster Posts: 103   +47

    "Won't somebody please think of the children". Really, I'm surprised you didn't children to your list, unless they already qualify for some of the sins you listed.
  10. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 2,154   +288

    He acts like Netflix invented the straight to dvd concept that his been around since video tapes...
    killmess likes this.
  11. ForgottenLegion

    ForgottenLegion TS Maniac Posts: 203   +200

    Add to the list:

    Children. If it's not a kids film I don't expect to/want to see/hear a child while I'm trying to watch a movie.
    People who leave/go to the toilet mid way through the film. If you can't control your bladder then stay at home or at the very least sit close to the exit and don't make noise/disturb others while leaving. How anyone can miss 5 mins of the middle of a movie and still enjoy it is beyond me.

    You're right, Nolan is talking out of his a***. I'd love to see him in a regular cinema trying to enjoy a film.
    killmess and TempleOrion like this.
  12. Adhmuz

    Adhmuz TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,855   +655

    This is usually reserved for movies that are absolutely terrible and don't deserve to be in a theater to begin with, this has long been know as Direct-to-Video. I don't believe these types of movies are what Nolan is talking about, more the movies that would potentially bring movie goers in to the theaters and waste a **** ton of money on vastly inflated food and drinks just so the local high school has somewhere for it's burn outs to work.

    Honestly, the only thing I truly miss out on by not going to see a movie in theaters is the big screen and getting to see it before people who have gone to see it before me can ruin it. I have far better sound quality at home and can adjust it to suit the movie if need be, I can PAUSE it, I can REWIND it, I can tell my friends to **** off without offending strangers, but best of all I don't have to spend $30 just to have some freakin' crumby popcorn and some concentrated syrup diluted in water, oh and I can get drunk and not have to worry about driving home afterwards.

    Back to the sound thing for another note, my local theater "upgraded" one of the theaters to reserved seating, more speakers, more subwoofers, before the movie starts they play the demo video to try to impress you, when they get to the low range segment the whole freaking roof starts vibrating and rattling like cheap ****, it's the lamest thing ever and I can't help but laugh at it. I can achieve the same effect at home, but that's not a multi million dollar movie theater...

    I know somebody mentioned dirty seats, what about seats that are missing the arm rest pads, this is a pretty common issue again at my local theater, the other problem is arm rest that have had their padding completely destroyed and might as well not be there.

    But my personal favorite, half way through the movie when the first reel ends and the second takes over, the second reel was put in backwards and upside down, but just the video, the audio was fine. The theater offered a refund but would you really want to wait in a line comprised of a packed theater of disgruntled people, I sure as hell did not and just left.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  13. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,616   +1,233

    Ha ha, upgraded! You would think that they could afford someone to come in and do a frequency sweep to locate stuff like that. Heck, one of their high school students could probably do it for them...
  14. kapital98

    kapital98 TS Maniac Posts: 253   +192

    Almost all major cinemas are digital now. It's generally only the mid-range to budget theaters that still use film. These theaters also tend to have woefully terrible projection quality.

    My home setup is vastly superior to what the theater offers. The only exception being my 7.1 system + reciever isn't quite as impressive as most theaters. With that said, I know I'm the exception. Most people watch new releases on 60hz HDTV's with sound coming out of the TV.

    I understand that Nolan wants quality control. It's admirable. It's also a very outmoded way of thinking and why many experts believe this is the 'golden age of television'. Full length movies are quickly falling into two categories: Straight-to-DVD (cable) or blockbusters.

    You would think Nolan would be happy that Netflix is bringing back mid-budget movie making. But because it's not like it used to be, because it's digital distribution, he's against it. Whatever. But if you look at his early movies, those type of films are really only possible as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu funded movies now.

    Nolan's sentiment is common in Hollywood, especially with older vets like Woody Allen. Still, it looks like this type of thinking will slowly die off as Netflix type distribution is the only way to get mid-budge movies made.
    Footlong likes this.
  15. kapital98

    kapital98 TS Maniac Posts: 253   +192

    I guess one last thing: With the rise of digital production the cost of making high quality TV has plummeted. Most of the millennials I know (I'm talking sub-25) tend to almost exclusively watch TV. Usually binge watching it on digital distribution. The demographics for feature films is skewing towards older audiences.

    Cinema really hasn't evolved since the widespread introduction of green screens in the 90's. Meanwhile, TV is just worlds better than when it was during the 90's or even early 2000's. TV shows like GoT's, Girls, and Transparent all rival cinema's ability to tell a story with high quality production.

    I wouldn't say cinema is dead. But it's a much tougher landscape than it was before digital distribution existed.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  16. dob_1

    dob_1 TS Enthusiast Posts: 36   +17

    Ha! When I go to the cinema it's usually the first session on my day off at 10.30am and I'm often sitting in the cinema alone - a private viewing. No distractions. Then I chew over the film with a nice lunch!
  17. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,656   +3,114

    My "most recent IMAX experience", was a "Transformers" movie, and not the latest one either. The movie was never filmed for IMAX in the first place, and so suffered from the worst fisheye distortion imaginable. It was grainy, with people having oval heads at the edges of the frame. I was thrilled when it was finally released on DVD, which was when I finally had the opportunity to enjoy it.

    700 watts in the home audio system, can get plenty loud enough in a row house, and the 46" TV is no more the 7 or 8 eyeball feet from my easy chair. If I find myself longing for the faint whiff of urine a movie theater often provides, I just stop flushing my toilet a few hours before show time.

    As far as "tinny horn tweeters" are concerned, I had a two way JBL system, D-130 woofers, with 075 "ring radiator".

    At one time JBL speakers were American made, to the highest standard. Their transient response was, and still is, so far above the average Chinese stamped frame drivers, it's honestly difficult to describe. Yes horns can be brittle, but more so when the drivers have any overshoot on the leading edge of the wave form, along with imbeciles in the mixing booth jacking up the EQ in the high end. I honestly don't think my JBLs suffered from that, (in fact I was able to run any amp I hooked to the system, dead flat), but you could count every winding on Joan Baez' guitar strings, as she trashed her ex, Bob Dylan, in "Diamonds & Rust".
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
  18. robb213

    robb213 TS Maniac Posts: 335   +103

    I'm in the same boat as the rest of you and can say I don't care.

    Ever since HD televisions made their way into my home, I much prefer the clear and sharp picture quality, as well as the brighter and more vibrant picture than what is offered at theaters. The only benefit to me of the theaters is you get to see something on a huge screen--but you lose quality in many ways.
  19. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,616   +1,233

    Well, I'm a Paradigm snob, but everyone has their preferences. It may not be the IMAX horns, per se, but it may be amps or something else in the chain that is distortion-laced. We used to have two THX theaters in our are that had, IMO anyway, superb sound. Having lots of power is one thing, but pumping out high dB levels when there is significant distortion in the chain somewhere just ruins the experience, and likely, the ears. In the THX theaters, the sound was so loud and so clean that it was impossible to hear anyone else in the theater chatting, or whatever. Even the theaters in our area with the best sound only approach the quality of the sound that those theaters had. :(

    I agree, JBL used to have a great reputation. Even though they are Canadian, Paradigm, IMO anyway, has helped make speakers an art. Last year, I updated to their Prestige series (which is not their high-end series) on a deal buy two fronts, get a center free, - aluminum cones for mids and bass. There was so much of an improvement in performance that my wife (who claims not to be musical) noted the improvement in sound. :) The huge tympanies in Handle's Water Music now sound like Tympanies instead of someone banging on a wooden floor - and dialog/vocals are also much clearer.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
  20. Robert12345

    Robert12345 TS Rookie

    This may only apply to me, but for the most part, having movies released on Netflix and in the theater at the same time will have little effect on my viewing habits. If it is a movie I want to see on a big screen, I will go to a theater. This mostly includes sci-fi type movies or movies with big adventure or action scenes. If it is a drama or similar low key action type movie, then I will see it online.
    So whether the movie is only in theaters or on both Netflix and theaters will not change when and where I watch it.
  21. NatalieEGH

    NatalieEGH TS Rookie Posts: 16   +8

    Ok, one of the benefits of my age, is the movies locally are $8.25 for an evening viewing (not counting 3D or Mega screen which cost more).

    I used to be an avid movie goer. The prices just got too high except for the rare movie, I want to see now. As to the concession stand. I am diabetic. The only things I can have from there are popcorn at like $8.00 or so a bucket, a big refillable bucket, I admit but a small bag with about the same amount as a microwave bag is $5.00. I am allowed to bring in snack because they are all sugar free. I would buy a bottle of water but they want 3 times what the convenience stores charge.

    I really have no idea how much it costs to run a theater or their profit margin. It does seem though that they would have a lot more ticket sales if they reduced their costs. Most of the viewing rooms I sit in are less than 20% filled, probably less than 5%. I do admit, I usually go to a movie the week after it comes out, but I did for Guardians of the Galaxy II, I went the Friday it was released to the 5pm showing (saved $.25 for early viewing, big whoop).

    Near here, there was a theater with $1.50 movies and snacks at convenience store prices. It was an old theater building, maybe even pre-World War II. The viewing room (is the complex a theater or each viewing room??), would often be full, as tickets were sold out. I think a lot more snacks sold too. It was purchased and changed into a church. Oh well.
  22. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,656   +3,114

    Well, I'm really cheap so, come hell or high water, we're waiting for the DVD. That, and I'm buying each season of "Game of Thrones", as soon as the price drops a bit. I'm planning to binge watch the entire show, right after its conclusion Given that I'm getting up there in years, I'm starting to question whether those are the most sound choices I can make. After all, they may be auctioning off sealed sets of GoT, at my estate sale, and I might never get to see the latest "Transformers" movie. (Only god knows if that would truly be a big loss at this point).

    OK, the math makes sense to a non theater owner, since 20 patrons @ $15.00 a pop, equals 60 patrons @ $5.00 a pop. But perhaps, 20 people are guaranteed to show, whereas 60 might be a bit iffy. Besides, there was a dollar movie around her, and I do believe they've given up.

    Speaking strictly for my own "hood", the local economy has but three types of businesses, and they're all in the, "service sector", child care, religion, and drug dealing. Point being, you never run out of people stupid enough to, breed children they can't possibly hope to feed, or to give their money to a church or a drug dealer. Thus, since there's precious little of the old social entitlement money left after the three foregoing expenses, you'll find perhaps a stray cell phone store, but no viable movie theaters.

    Speaking of religion, there's a "preacher"on Ion TV, channel 1, who shamelessly states, "if you send a few grand to our cause, you'll be doing yourself a huge favor". No wonder the FTC has to babysit Amazon's customers.

    Anyway, here's the final end to the "Yeadon Theater", in pictures:
  23. kapital98

    kapital98 TS Maniac Posts: 253   +192

    Theaters are in a weird place. They don't make any profits off of ticket sales. The cost of showing a 'first run' movie is extremely expensive. This is why discount theaters (second run) or driveins can charge rock botttom rates. This is also why many independent movies are limited release and slowly channel their way through the country. The theaters will show the film for several weeks and then send the film back to the distributor -- who then sends it to the next theater. This vastly decreases the amount it costs to distribute the movie, and therefore the cost of showing (but it also significantly decreases showing revenue). I'm not sure how this technique works with digital movies but it's still common with film (Woody Allen's recent films are a great example).

    The distribution prices are unlikely to change anytime soon because the cinemas have little control in this regard. Places like MGM and Sony expect things to be the way they were -- rather than what they are.

    A problem with ticket sales is that the inelasticities of the demand curve, the increased ticket sales would result in a decrease of revenue. They might sell more tickets but the gross revenue will be lower. It's better to have a mostly empty theater with high ticket prices than a sold out theater with low tickets. [Though it should be noted: The demand for cinema has changed so much that the tickets would have to be dirt chip to have packed houses on non-blockbuster movies -- it's not the 50's anymore.]

    The movie theaters live and die on concession sales. They have a monopoly on concessions and extract every last time they can as a result.

    Tl;Dr: The industry is rapidly changing and cinemas are in an uphill fight to maintain profitability. Don't be surprised if most dig in their heels and die off as a result.
  24. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,656   +3,114

    The only way your account of the situation tracks fully, is if the distribution charges are based on a percentage of overall, by the head, ticket sales.

    If, as you say, the concession stands are where the theaters turn their profits, even a doubling of a**es in the seats would turn a tidy profit.

    If the theater is nailed with a per diem distribution, then, (arguably), a halving of ticket prices, inducing a doubling patrons, would result in null result of overall income from ticket sales, but an increase of income from the eats and drinks.

    However, if ticket sales, by the head, are responsible for setting the instant distribution charges, then as attend decreases, the price to hold the movie in the theater would decrease over the course of its run.

    I can't imagine that distribution charges aren't attached to the locale, and COLA of a given area. IE, NYC versus Scranton PA. (?)

    Help me out here, what am I missing?
  25. kapital98

    kapital98 TS Maniac Posts: 253   +192

    You're assuming a perfectly elastic demand curve. Barring that, you're assuming general linearity within the model to predict revenue. Both of which don't hold in this case. You're also assuming that the rate of consumption for concessions has a static multiplier (in this case, perfectly inelastic).

    The film can be seen largely as a fixed cost (I believe they pay a single fee and can run it as long as they like -- but it may be by the week).

    So I'll just spitball a formula that makes sense to what I'm saying.

    Profit (P) = ticket (t) + concessions(Z) - cost of movie(dummy variable)

    P = (10 tickets * $15) + (10 popcorn * $10) - 250 = $50

    P = (20 tickets * $7.50) + (12 popcorn * $10) - 250 = $20

    More ticket sales led to less money. That simple linear regression showed that even if ticket demand was perfectly elastic, the cinema would still make less money if the new people didn't have the same consumption habits of the previous people.

    I made the model overly simplistic (in reality, less would buy popcorn in the first interval and more in the second). However, once you no longer assume ticket consumption is elastic then that further proves the point I'm making.

    That, in a nutshell, explains the modern finances of cinemas.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017

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