Sorry Netflix: Christopher Nolan Wants His Next Film to Play Exclusively in Theaters

To stream or not to stream....

When you think of a Christopher Nolan film, you think in large terms...IMAX, widescreen, surround sound, newly invented cameras...the history of cinema receives an upgrade whenever a new feature of his is released. 

We won't have to wait too much longer for Nolan's latest. Already propped up with a release date of July 2020, Nolan's follow-up to Dunkirk remains somewhat of a mystery, plot-wise, but its distribution strategy will undoubtedly be first-rate. And...distinctly theatrical. 

While attending the UK Cinema Association conference, Nolan's remarks about the importance of the theatrical experience couldn't have felt more topical given the recent debate between Steven Spielberg and Netflix over the streaming company's dominance throughout awards season. 

“We will certainly be asking [exhibitors] to really help us, and asking you to be our partners in terms of putting on a show for the audience and giving them a reason to come out for the evening, and engage with the world of cinema which we all love so much,” Nolan almost pleaded with the audience about his upcoming feature. “What we never want to forget is the idea of showmanship…whatever the economic realities are, whatever costs need to be cut or corners need to be cut."

Nolan's childhood memories aren't just of films themselves but of the physical act of attending a theater and letting the entire space overwhelm him. It's as much a celluloid dream as it is an architectural one.

“The memories are also of the sense of occasion, of being a young child entering an architectural space that’s so much bigger and grander than myself," Nolan reminisced, "the thrill of the curtains opening, moving to enlarge the screen for a widescreen presentation. Above all my enduring memories are of scale, of the size of screen, the idea of seeing people and places that are larger than life, potentially overwhelming but engrossing and involving.”

Is the theatrical experience in danger? And is Netflix threatening it? Let us know in the comments below.      

Your Comment


I agree with Nolan and Spielberg. The theater is the best way to watch movies, even if it is expensive.

March 6, 2019 at 10:27AM

Evan Olow
Writer and Director

It doesn't have to be. I'm AMC stubs member and I get 3 shows per week. Even IMAX. That's very inexpensive.

March 6, 2019 at 11:31AM

Jan Becker
DP, Director, Producer

AMC has learnt from MoviePass and implemented a sustainable model unlike MoviePass which tried to disrupt and got destroyed with a bad subscription model.

We need more innovative ideas from the Theaters to get the audience to the Theaters and ofcourse the onus lies on film makers to make films worthy of watching on the big screen.

Netflix is primarily a Television Network like NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, HBO and others which only streams its content instead of airing it, hence it should be treated the same way as far as awards are concerned.

In these changing times we need every kind of movie distribution model to co-exist so that the stories that need to be told have an audience.

As always proper release window need to be followed with the first being Theatrical Release --> Video On Demand --> Streaming. Some movies can directly go to VOD or Streaming based on its capability.

March 6, 2019 at 12:01PM

Kalyan Palla

$240/yr to see the maybe 4 movies worth seeing on a big screen that come to theaters each year? Double that if you don't want to go see the movies alone. Yikes.

March 6, 2019 at 11:51PM

Jeremiah Kuehne

Theatrical experience is extremely important for creators and for spectators. Postcards will never replace looking at real art in a museum, music in a live concert is very different experience from music at home on a couch. I invite all possible distributions, but it's important to understand that watching movie on a phone during bus ride is a waist...

March 6, 2019 at 1:39PM

Vladimir Pcholkin

enough with all the BS.... of course seeing a movie (big movie) is better at a Theater ... we go to the Theater 2+ times a month .. and I bet that number puts us in the top few percent of movie goers by percentage. It would be horrible if we weren't able to see good content on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, etc ... Theater is not dying, streaming is not bad .... gezzz.... oh and hey Nolan, step up your game this time, I'm a long time fan but Dunkirk was very disappointing.

March 6, 2019 at 3:58PM


Where in the article does it say "Christopher Nolan Wants His Next Film to Play Exclusively in Theaters"? Where?

Or are you manipulative click-baiters?

March 6, 2019 at 5:11PM


Definitely agree with this sentiment, but it's rare to find this type of experience these days. The enemy isn't Netflix, but the theatre owners themselves.

Multiplex theatres are now often shaped like a shoebox, long with a tiny screen at the end, usually the product of larger more beautiful theatre simply being subdivided right down the middle.

Around the world, the art of projection is also almost completely dead. I can't stand going to the theatre and seeing 2:35 films projected onto 1:85 screens with no matte creating grey bars top and bottom. I may as well be at home. And just recently I've noticed a trend of 2:35 trailers being showing on the pre-show 16:9 projectors so they can mix in ads for candy bar all the way till the end, often resulting in trailers for the latest blockbusters being screened on a tiny portion of a larger screen.

Also I really couldn't care less about theatres trying to make me feel like I'm at home on the couch bringing me snacks and drinks. The "event" aspect is what is missing from the experience. Great projection and great sound with a large screen. Precious few places around the world offer this experience these days.

March 6, 2019 at 8:47PM, Edited March 6, 8:47PM


David..its a good insight and definitely we need better theaters for a superior viewing experience.

Netflix is the biggest enemy to film makers because they do not provide viewership data on each film. They want all the perks/awards but are not willing to follow any rules.

Atleast with Theatrical Release we have boxoffice numbers to gauge how much money is made on a film... and boxoffice numbers decide the future of Actors, Directors and film makers and every one involved in the film making community.

With Netflix hiding the viewership data, they cheat film makers everyday by paying them very less amount while they enjoy huge viewership on that content and increase their membership and make money just for themselves.

In the long run it hurts film makers and the film making community as a whole and the quality of stories that will be told via film.
Netflix can keep producing quality TV series just like any other television network, but if they want to produce films, they have to play by the rules.

March 7, 2019 at 12:03PM

Kalyan Palla

Kalyan ... we'll have to agree to disagree here ... Netflix doesn't cheat anyone, they make deals, license content, order original content whatever... their financial model might be different than a major, but so what? ... participants go in eyes wide open The notion that "they have to play by the rules" is just sophomoric ... disruption my friend .. that is the world you live in, develop a better mouse trap and move forward, those who can't or won't adapt won't be around.

March 8, 2019 at 6:07AM


Thanks Michael for the insight.
We as film makers have basic responsibility to protect the long-term overall health of the film industry so that more worthy stories can be told in the future and future film makers (Producers/Directors/Actors/etc) still have the freedom and opportunity to deliver quality films.
Given below are the ways how Netflix is destroying the overall health of the film industry in the name of disruption. This exercise is just to have a dialogue and understand the situation, please go thru it and give your valuable input.

1. Netflix does not disclose its numbers like - How many people have watched the respective Documentary or a Film on Netflix? At least with studio system we know how much a movie collected at the box-office ensuring the film makers get a backend if at all there is any. With Netflix it’s just a void. How do you demand/decide on how much you have to demand/pay for a film when we don’t have the numbers? Netflix pays pennies on the dollar for some good films and pays a huge amount for some crappy films. The genuine Film Maker is at loss whereas with box-office numbers even if you don’t make any money on your current film at least you can demand more on your next film.
Netflix does very little on the publicity/promotion of a film, hence most films disappear without a trace never to be found. Available on Netflix does not mean it will be watched by people in 190 countries. Available on Netflix means it’s not available anywhere else.

2. In the movie business or any product business...we need to milk it to the maximum so that everyone in the chain makes a good profit. If you put any movie on Netflix...its cost is $0 for the audience as they are already on a monthly subscription. It should be the last one in the Chain...first being Theatrical --> Video on Demand --> Streaming (Netflix/YouTube). Proper window system should be followed in order to give opportunity for each venue to generate revenue. On another note just letting it out there (though big corporations don’t care in this cut-throat world) that movie theaters help in growing the ancillary businesses like restaurants/shopping malls and other businesses to flourish and develop the overall ecosystem of the locality by making people leave their homes.

3. Netflix is just pumping $$ to make content (Good TV Series but mostly crappy Original Movies) by raising its long-term debt and not thinking about the overall health of the movie industry. If it continues, it will be another case of "MoviePass" where MoviePass tried to disrupt the system and got burnt. People thought that you could watch any movie in theatres on Day-1 of its release for 33 cents/ticket. AMC learnt from the MoviePass fiasco and came up with a sustainable subscription model.
It would look like Netflix is paying the A-List Actors/Directors/Film Makers huge amounts right now but soon they will tighten it once they have destroyed the theatrical business. So, the A-list actors/film makers must be responsible in their association with Netflix and must demand a theatrical release window before their movies are available for streaming.

4. Netflix is required for films which do not need a theatrical release just like how we have Straight to DVD / TV movies. Netflix can tell varied stories which otherwise would not see the light of the day. Netflix is primarily a Television Network just like NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, HBO or others which airs its content while Netflix only streams its content, hence it should be treated the same way as far as awards are concerned. They can be eligible for Emmy's and not the Oscars (They can have a separate Category in Oscars if required which says, “Best TV/Streaming” Movie). In these changing times we need every kind of movie distribution model to co-exist so that the stories that need to be told have an audience.

March 8, 2019 at 12:45PM, Edited March 8, 12:45PM

Kalyan Palla

The world is bigger than theater screens. So you have Netflix,etc that otherwise you miss many movies. Besides, TVs are larger and better image quality.

March 7, 2019 at 1:10AM

Javier Diez

Let's hope the movie will be released in Dolby Cinema as it was for Dunkirk, it would fun to compare it with IMAX laser and its shimmering silver screen :P

March 7, 2019 at 2:43AM


I guess when you wipe your ass with $100 bills you can make these kind of demands.

March 7, 2019 at 6:56AM

Anthony Wood

Exactly, especially if you want to buy a bigger 200 Million yacht if you know the other guy who want to kill Netflix.

March 7, 2019 at 9:08PM


I'd prefer to see more movies in the theater, but every time I do the audience drives me insane. People on phones, people whispering, wait staff bringing food and drinks. It makes it impossible for me to become immersed in a movie the same way I can at home.

March 7, 2019 at 8:21AM



March 7, 2019 at 2:42PM

Marc Strong

IMHO, seeing a movie in the theatre vs. your TV set at home is like being court side at an NBA game vs. watching the game at home.
Being in a theatre filled with people who are into the same movie, is a better experience - save for the odd rude person. People are taking convenience and trading that for quality.

March 7, 2019 at 9:31AM

Josh Wolf

So I'm the only one here who hates big cinemas? The masses of people, the compromise in seating positions, the constant distraction from someone talking/eating/going to the toilet/sneezing/coughing/laughing in serious moments?
The money and time involved?
A home projector with surround speakers isn't the same, but the lack in quality is made up by the convenience, instantness and intimacy watching movies at home offers.

March 7, 2019 at 12:07PM


i tought i was the only one! i mean i hate hate hate going to the cinemas in my country (Peru) i have good memories of the first movies i watched like The Lion King of Dumb and Dumber ruined by some guy eating popcorn or a fucking baby crying, i mean i remember even a child pissing on the floor of the theater fucking peasants...

March 7, 2019 at 9:11PM


"Dunkirk" had one of the worst endings in recent cinema history for a big budgeted movie. Let's hope he gets a credible one this time.

March 7, 2019 at 12:31PM

William Scherer
Writer/Director/Producer/Fine Art Aerial Photography