Netflix has become a battlefield for directors and actors as they debate a heated topic: is the streaming service hurting the movie industry?
The question comes after Christopher Nolan vowed to never work with Netflix on a movie. Nolan called into question the entire purpose and reasoning behind Netflix’s distribution method, pointing out that not having theatrical releases was a threat to the industry at large. Others, including Will Smith and Willem Dafoe, have been more understanding of Netflix’s distribution model, adding that the streaming service and theaters could co-exist in the same world (both at the time were promoting movies being produced and distributed by Netflix).
Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins has her own thoughts on the matter. Jenkins told Polygon she’s happy Netflix is around to help out lesser known directors interested in creating films that would be considered independent by today’s standards, but said she wouldn’t work with the company on a blockbuster movie.
“I don’t think I would work with them on a movie that was meant for theatrical distribution,” Jenkins said. “Maybe one day, but it’s not where their business model lies right now.”
That doesn’t mean Jenkins is opposed to ever working with Netflix, though. The director doesn’t just want to direct big, tentpole blockbusters for the rest of her life. There are smaller, more intimate projects she’s keen to work on. In an era when studios want to invest in potential franchises and well known characters (often superheroes), Netflix has become the go-to company to team up with.
“The bottom of the independent film industry had fallen out for a long time and no one was making auteur filmmakers’ films anymore, only tentpoles,” Jenkins said. “So if I’m making a tentpole, I’m going to make a tentpole with a studio. There are so many films that would have a great audience that [just] didn’t meet the theatrical distribution model [needed and] without Netflix wouldn’t be possible.
“So I think it’s definitely great that there are places for both but I don’t think they’re the same.”
Netflix’s CEO and chief content officer, Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos, have spoken about this before. Hastings told Recode that when the streaming company came under fire earlier this year at the Cannés Film Festival, it was great publicity for Netflix’s original movie, Okja. Hastings told Recode that, much like how people still go out for dinner with friends and family despite being able to cook or order in at home, moviegoers will still journey to theaters with friends for the communal experience.
Most in the industry tend to agree that Netflix’s new distribution method is the sign of modern times, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end for theaters. MoviePass, for example, has signed up more than 150,000 subscribers who will pay $9.99 a month to be able to watch as many films as they’d like every month at the theater. Still, it’s a debate that isn’t quite ready to settle down anytime soon.
For Jenkins, the time to work with Netflix may not be now, but she isn’t saying no to the possibility of it happening down the road.