Netflix Boss: Christopher Nolan Staying Away from Studio Over ‘Global Distribution’ Issue

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Zack Sharf
·3 min read
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No one is expecting Christopher Nolan to direct a Netflix movie considering his commitment to the theatrical experience over streaming, but Nolan’s decision to stay away from Netflix has more to do than just ensuring his films play in a movie theater. In a new interview with The Wall Street Journal, Netflix’s head of original films Scott Stuber notes that the streamer’s lack of “global distribution” that is perhaps driving the biggest business wedge between Nolan and the streaming giant.

“I think there are aspects of global distribution in the cinema that are still appealing,” Stuber said when asked about filmmakers who are resistant to making a Netflix original movie. “Chris Nolan and I have spoken quite a bit…and that’s still something he wants deeply. If we can’t provide that, it will still be an issue for him.”

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While Netflix has been open to giving select originals exclusive theatrical runs ahead of streaming in the U.S. (see the four-week theatrical runs for Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”), the same isn’t true globally. France has long had a 36-month theatrical window, meaning films need to wait three years between releasing in theaters and going on Netflix (although that could be changing somewhat in the near future).

France’s window is the reason Netflix famously pulled out of Cannes, as competition titles are required to screen in French theaters (and thus couldn’t become available on Netflix until three years later). It goes against Netflix’s business model to release a new original film in French theaters and then wait three years to make it available to subscribers. That takes the theoretical French theatrical release of a Nolan-Netflix project off the table. As for the U.S., top chains such as AMC don’t play Netflix films at the moment because they don’t follow specific windows. Anyway you slice it, Netflix isn’t a viable option for Nolan.

Nolan may still be resistant to Netflix, but the streaming giant continues to draw heavyweight talent such as Scorsese, Baumbach, David Fincher, Spike Lee, and more. Stuber views the Oscars as a key promotional tool to drawing top directors. For the second year in a row, Netflix is the most-nominated studio at the Academy Awards, with 36 nominations in 2021.

“It’s very important because what you are saying to the artistic community is: We can actually make those things happen that you dream about,” Stuber said when asked how important being the most-nominated studio at the Oscars is to the company. “We all want to be recognized by our peers as the best in class. When I started, we’d never been nominated. It’s a great accomplishment and it’s hugely beneficial to the business for not only recruiting artists, but also making sure our customer knows that we try to achieve the best.”

Stuber added that Oscar nominations do bring a bump to subscribers: “We’ve seen it consistently this year, as well as in the past with ‘Roma’ and ‘Marriage Story’ and other films that get that bump the way that we traditionally see at the box office.”

Netflix’s Best Picture contenders in 2021 include “Mank” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

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