One of the biggest questions in Hollywood right now is whether or not Christopher Nolan will make his next movie at Warner Bros. The director slammed his home studio of nearly 20 years last December after it was announced Warner Bros.’ entire 2021 film slate would be getting a hybrid theatrical in which titles open in theaters on the same day they become available to stream for 31 days on HBO Max. Should Nolan decide to leave Warner Bros. for the first time since the 2002 release of “Insomnia,” then Netflix will be waiting to snatch him up.
“If and when [Nolan] comes up with his new movie, it’s about can we be a home for it and what would we need to do to make that happen,” Netflix’s head of original films Scott Stuber recently told Variety. “He’s an incredible filmmaker. I’m going to do everything I can. In this business I’ve learned you need to have zero ego. I get punched and knocked down and get back up.”
According to Variety, Netflix’s recent deal with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin production company has “given Stuber hope that he might be able to lure Christopher Nolan.” Spielberg, like Nolan, is one of the biggest advocates for theatrical distribution, but it was announced in late June that the Oscar winner’s global film and television studio Amblin Partners was entering a pact with Netflix to create multiple feature films per year. Spielberg will produce these films, although it remains to be seen if he’ll ever step into the director’s chair for one of them.
While Stuber will try as he might to lure Nolan to Netflix, the streaming executive is well aware such an endeavor is an uphill battle. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in April, Stuber noted that Netflix’s lack of “global distribution” is perhaps driving the biggest business wedge between Nolan and the streaming giant.
“I think there are aspects of global distribution in the cinema that are still appealing,” Stuber said when asked about filmmakers who are resistant to making a Netflix original movie. “Chris Nolan and I have spoken quite a bit…and that’s still something he wants deeply. If we can’t provide that, it will still be an issue for him.”
While Netflix has been open to giving select original movies theatrical runs ahead of streaming in the U.S. (see the four-week theatrical runs for Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”), the same isn’t true globally. France has long had a 36-month theatrical window, meaning films need to wait three years between releasing in theaters and going on Netflix (although that could be changing somewhat in the near future).
France’s window is the reason Netflix famously pulled out of Cannes, as competition titles are required to screen in French theaters (and thus couldn’t become available on Netflix until three years later). It goes against Netflix’s business model to release a new original film in French theaters and then wait three years to make it available to subscribers. That takes the theoretical French theatrical release of a Nolan-Netflix project off the table. As for the U.S., top chains such as AMC currently don’t play Netflix films because they don’t follow specific windows.