The vigorous debate between Netflix and theatrical releases came to Comic-Con last night as the streaming giant brought their upcoming action-fantasy tentpole “Bright” to the San Diego convention. Director David Ayer was joined by cast members Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace and more, but it was Smith who naturally stole the spotlight. The actor cautiously played both sides of the debate, praising Netflix for their creative freedom and saluting the experience that only a theater can provide.
Smith was asked about whether he agreed or not with Christopher Nolan’s Netflix comments from earlier this week. In an interview with IndieWire, the “Dunkirk” director criticized Netflix’s distribution model, saying, “Netflix has a bizarre aversion to supporting theatrical films. They have this mindless policy of everything having to be simultaneously streamed and released, which is obviously an untenable model for theatrical presentation.”
Smith wasn’t going to slam the home of his next big-budget distributor, but he doesn’t entirely disagree with Nolan. Let’s just say Smith wouldn’t want to be watching any Nolan movies on Netflix. Speaking about the theatrical experience, Smith said:
I remember the Christmas that “Avatar” came out and our entire family rushed out on Christmas Day to go with the glasses and all that. That’s an experience. Specifically the films that Chris [Nolan] makes, you want to see those films in that space. The venue is part of the experience.
The actor isn’t wrong when he says the theatrical experience is crucial when watching Nolan blockbuster, but you’d also think a movie like “Bright,” with all it’s CGI-heavy action and fantastical creatures, would benefit from having a theater be part of the experience, too. Perhaps Smith said it best at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year when he tried to defuse the tension between Netflix and theaters.
“Netflix has no effect on what [my kids] go to see in a movie theater,” he said during the jury press conference. “They are two different forms of entertainment. With Netflix they get the benefit to watch what they never would have seen, it brings great connectivity to them to the world….Netflix has done nothing but broaden my children’s global cinematic comprehension.”
Netflix and movie theaters will continue to coexist for now. Smith will come to a home device near you when “Bright” becomes available to stream December 22.