Since Anthony and Joe Russo have taken on the world of Marvel, they've spent their years afterward working on personal projects and actively changing their perceptions of what "cinema" even means anymore. Currently, the Russo brothers have a movie called The Gray Man coming out on July 22 on Netflix. It will have played in theaters roughly a month before hitting the streamer.
This is very different than the event films they did for Marvel, which totally revolved around when they hit the big screen.
"The Theater Is a 'Sacred Space' Is Bullshit"
Having both perspectives has put the brothers at the center of what they call a “crisis” Hollywood faces because of a “culture war” on how films are made and released. It seems like everyone has a side they're on—the core of it is streaming versus theatrical.
The Russos are walking the line when it comes to the debate. They see merit on both sides, from the increased diversity and audiences in streaming to the grandeur of the big screen. Recently, they sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the future of cinema.
Joe Russo said, “It’s sad to see, as guys who grew up loving film. A thing to remember, too, is it’s an elitist notion to be able to go to a theater. It’s very fucking expensive. So, this idea that was created—that we hang on to—that the theater is a 'sacred space,' is bullshit. And it rejects the idea of allowing everyone in under the tent.”
This stance definitely ruffled feathers on social media, but it's not like they don't have a reason for the stance.
Joe Russo continued, “Where digital distribution is valuable, other than what I said earlier about how it pushed diversity, is that people can share accounts. They can get 40 stories for the cost of one story. But having some kind of culture war about whether there’s value in that or not is fucking bananas to us.”
'The Gray Man'Credit: NetflixSo what is the future? As many have predicted, theaters seem to be a place for big, tentpole movies. They're community houses of worship. But lately, people have been going to services at home. And when it comes to the world, streaming can just reach further and further. If you have a TV and wifi, you can be connected.
“Auteur filmmaking is 50 years old at this point. It was conceived in the ’70s,” said Joe Russo. “We grew up on that. We were kids, it was really important to us. But we’re also aware that the world needs to change and the more that we try to prevent it from changing, the more chaos we create. It’s not anyone’s place to reject the next generation’s ideas.”
While the next generation seems to be less precious about the big screen, it does worry me that it could cost us access to theaters if people stop going. They may become things that only exist in big cities. But that's just me seeing the worst in all of this. Obviously, getting movies made is what matters, and streamers are making them at a much faster rate than anywhere else.
“We love everything about classic cinema, but we’ve never been precious about that in any way, shape, or form,” Anthony Russo said. He went on to elaborate why Hollywood needs to change, saying, “How do you get away from the old models? How do you reach audiences that haven’t been engaged before? That’s all the most interesting stuff to us.”
For what it's worth, both Russos also agreed that budgeting and making movies at Netflix was a lot easier than with a traditional studio. They mentioned how Netflix gets out of their way and just allows them to work.
These are all early conversations, but as we've seen, the pandemic has forced the industry ahead at a high rate. It seems like we're all playing catchup now,