Surprise, Surprise: Christopher Nolan Is Not A Fan Of Netflix

The "Dunkirk" director has railed against the streaming service's model.

Steadfast cinema purist Christopher Nolan does not appreciate all that Netflix you’ve been watching.

More specifically, the “Dark Knight” and “Interstellar” director is not fond of Netflix insisting its original movies debut on the service’s streaming platforms the same day they’re released theatrically ― if they’re released theatrically at all. Long story short: Unlike Martin Scorsese, Ava DuVernay and Noah Baumbach, Chris Nolan will never make a movie for Netflix. 

“Netflix has a bizarre aversion to supporting theatrical films,” Nolan told IndieWire in an interview published Wednesday. “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.”

Nolan, whose new movie, “Dunkirk,” opens this weekend, has always been a staunch defender of traditional filmmaking models. Many directors shoot their movies digitally nowadays, but Nolan, like fellow purist Quentin Tarantino, still shoots on film. In his eyes, digital photography is “devaluing what we do as filmmakers.” 

And now Netflix is Nolan’s bugbear of choice. He even went so far as to say he prefers Blu-ray for his home-viewing habits. Oh, Dad!

To his credit, Nolan wants to keep the experience of trekking to an actual movie theater ― you know, those places with large screens and communal crowds ― alive and prospering. Netflix has invested a whopping $6 billion in green-lighting and acquiring original titles (including series), and Nolan isn’t alone in decrying what streaming’s resistance to theatrical exclusivity could do to a country that’s already seeing wobbly sales at the box office

“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,” he told IndieWire. “It’s so pointless. I don’t really get it. [...] If Netflix has made a great film, they should put it in theaters. Why not? Stream it 90 days later.”

Nolan says Amazon is doing it the right way by distributing its acquired movies in theaters first, à la “Manchester by the Sea,” “Love & Friendship” and “The Big Sick.”

And we all know Nolan’s not just full of talk. He shot “Dunkirk” on film, with 65mm IMAX cameras, which capture bigger, more detailed images. In multiplexes, it will be projected in 70mm, like “Interstellar” and Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight.” In fact, this stunning World War II epic will receive the widest release for the 70mm format in 25 years, according to Variety. Some critics have insisted that’s the way “Dunkirk” must be seen ― a noble but elitist stance, given many people cannot afford the costlier IMAX ticket or do not live near theaters showing the movie in that format. 

Nolan’s arguments about Netflix reflect one of the key divides in franchise-infatuated Hollywood right now: stumping for original movies in any configuration, or maintaining the increasingly outmoded integrity of “traditional” filmmaking. One of the few directors who can helm projects of his choosing within studio confines, Nolan can afford to wage this war. The problem is, most can’t. And, as long as your name isn’t Hillary Clinton, the majority vote wins.