Universal boss Jeff Shell disrupted the movie business in a huge way this year after he agreed to skip theaters and open “Trolls: World Tour” straight to VOD platforms. The studio would go on to do the same with movies such as “The King of Staten Island” and “You Should Have Left.” Shell said Universal would continue to release films straight to VOD even after theaters reopen, promoting outrage and bans from major chains like AMC. But it turns out Shell once had an even more controversial idea: Release a Quentin Tarantino movie straight to iPhones.
In a new profile of Shell published by The Wall Street Journal this week, it’s revealed that Tarantino met with the Universal executive about releasing his Western movie “The Hateful Eight.” Tarantino needed a hefty budget for the project as he intended to shoot the movie on 70mm film and retrofit theaters across the country with projectors that could play the movie on film as he intended. Shell, however, had an entirely different release plan for the movie.
As The Wall Street Journal reports: “Jeff Shell, at the time the head of the Universal studio, voiced his own pitch. ‘What if we released it on iPhones?’ he said. ‘Great,’ Mr. Tarantino replied, and stormed out of the meeting.”
Proposing to release a 70mm-shot Quentin Tarantino movie on iPhones is more or less a cinephile sin. Tarantino would ultimately reunite with The Weinstein Company for “The Hateful Eight.” Shell wasn’t entirely wrong to be apprehensive about the project from a business perspective, although an iPhone release is outrageous. TWC spent around $60 million just to produce the movie, and it was an added expense to release the film as a 70mm roadshow. TWC took a financial hit after “The Hateful Eight” grossed just $155 million worldwide.
As for Tarantino, the director would go on to make Sony Pictures his first major Hollywood studio after severing ties with TWC for the production of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Tarantino also partnered with Netflix to release an extended version of “The Hateful Eight” as an episodic limited series.