It was reported yesterday that Netflix is threatening to withdraw five major films, including Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma, Paul Greengrass‘s Norway and Orson Welles‘ The Other Side of the Wind, that were slated to premiere during next month’s Cannes Film Festival. Netflix is angry about a decision last year by festival topper Thierry Fremaux to exclude their films from competition, which was prompted by Netflix’s refusal to book films theatrically in France. Withdrawing these films would be Netflix’s “fuck you” to the festival and French exhibitors combined.
HE to Netflix: You should bend on this one. You really should. Your no-theatrical-release policy has cast a pall over the film industry. I’m not saying that a good film going straight to Netlix is necessarily cause for mourning on the part of its makers and fans, but a lot of people in this industry feel that way. You have to acknowledge that the faith of theatrical is in everyone’s bloodstream, and that you can’t just say “no theatrical, fuck off, we live in a streaming world, get used to it.” That’s harsh. That’s cruel.
Everyone is presuming that you’re not going to open Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman without an initial theatrical opening of some kind, so you’ve already capitulated to some extent. Can’t you loosen up a bit more?
Due respect but from my perspective you’ll be doing a rotten, rotten thing by preventing Cuaron’s film from playing in Cannes, not to mention the Greengrass, the Welles and Morgan Neville‘s Welles documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead. Not to mention Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold the Dark. Bad karma, bad vibes, too much ego.
Yes, exhibition has all but divested itself from quality-level films and has devolved into a brothel of CG spectacle and almost nothing else, but great cinema has been nurturing and flourishing in theatres for the last century or so, and you can’t just say “okay, no more theatres” just like that. Cinemas are not just places to project images but churches of communal worship — chapels, cathedrals, temples, mosques, synagogues and fundamentalist Elmer Gantry tents. You can’t just raise your hand and tell a worldwide community of movie lovers that they’ll have to do their praying at home now. You can’t just shut all that down. It’s wrong.
Streaming is the future — we all understand that — but you have to ease into it. Amazon has a better attitude about this, and the Movie Godz, trust me, are up in arms. You should try and get more religion into your life and your approach to business. You really should. For all his sins, even Harvey Weinstein understood this. Movies ain’t nothin’ without the soul, and you need communion and meditation to really get into that, and you can’t really experience a religious awakening on your couch. For that you need to join a congregation.