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Nicolas Winding Refn Declares ‘Cinema Is Dead,’ Thinks Arguing About Netflix Is ‘So 2000’ and Pointless

Refn told The Guardian that cinema is being resurrected thanks to streaming and social media, but the same can't be said for television.

Nicolas Winding Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn

Claudio Onorati / Epa/Shutterstock

Nicolas Winding Refn is making the press rounds to promote his new website, the film streaming platform byNWR.com, and part of his press tour was spent at the Lumière Film Festival, where the filmmaker told The Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw that “cinema is dead.” Refn hints that cinema has been resurrected by streaming and free methods of distribution on social media, which is why his personal website will make classic B-movies available to stream for free.

“Cinema is dead,” Refn said. “I have come to Lyon to declare film to be dead. And now it’s resurrected. Film clings on to our feet as we move forward. The best way to move forward [is] to bury the past. That doesn’t mean you forget it.”

Refn referred to the Institut Lumière in Lyon as an example of a place movie lovers can go not to forget the past. “It’s like a cathedral. It’s where you read the first testament. You study scriptures to get to the second testament,” he said. “If you look at Instagram or Twitter or all these things that my children use – they’re all for free! What on earth are we thinking? That it doesn’t mean anything for cinema?”

Competition from social media platforms and streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix is part of the reason the films on byNWR.com will be available to stream for free. Refn himself is joining Amazon for his upcoming television series “Too Old to Die Young,” starring Miles Teller. The series is expected to premiere next year on Amazon. If cinema is dead, does that mean movie theaters are as well? Refn doesn’t believe that’s the case, although he has no time to listen to the arguments between streaming platforms like Netflix and movie theater owners.

“That discussion is so 2000,” Refn said when asked about the dispute between Netflix and French theater owners at Cannes earlier this year. “Here we are in the second day of Year Zero. The only thing to know is that the cinema screen and the phone are co-existent. One is not better than the other. They are co-existent.”

“The internet is ruled by three words: individualism, unapologetic, polarisation,” Refn continued. “That’s very worrying in terms of news. It gave us Trump. In terms of art, though, it’s the best thing that ever happened. People will always go to the cinema. But the cinema industry is financed by certain films whose sole purpose is to maximise profit as fast as possible. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what has changed history most in the last 20 years? A video camera and a telephone. One of the key things of the digital revolution is that sharing is a new definition of culture. People need to express themselves. The more you do that, the better a person you become.”

As for television, Refn said it’s also dead and doesn’t have a chance at being reborn like film. “Television is dead. And television will not be reborn. It will not come back,” he said. “What has surfaced instead is the digital platform of entertainment. Cinema will come back with different meaning. But television … is dead.”

One way Refn hopes to express himself moving forward is through byNWR.com, which will stream movies and feature essays and artworks curated by him. The website is set to launch this month in the UK before a global expansion throughout the year. Click here for the first round of movies set to stream.

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