Surely you've heard or even participated in some version of the "Is Streaming Killing Cinema?" debate, a back-and-forth for which most points made on either side are somewhat predictable and largely mirror a similar preceding debate within the music industry. An expansive New York Times piece published Thursday, however, pulls together insight from a wide variety of celebrated filmmakers as they look ahead to how to adapt to an industry that—like all matters of art—is changing rapidly alongside the preferred consumption habits of younger viewers.
Kyle Buchanan's piece opens with a quote from Jason Blum (Blumhouse Productions) in which the current cinema climate is characterized as "the biggest shift in the content business" in Hollywood history, moving forward from there with some truly compelling anecdotes from a total of 24 industry leaders. As already pointed out by fellow enthusiasts, Oscar-nominated The Big Sick star and co-writer Kumail Nanjiani (next seen in this summer's Stuber comedy) gave Buchanan some of the most telling bits when recalling an impromptu case study a friend of his carried out while in line for the bathroom at a bar.
"I was at a bar with a friend who directs big movies, and while we were in line for the bathroom, he was saying that movie theaters were going to go away," Nanjiani, who also argued that the quality standard for Netflix-level releases and Avengers-level theatrical experiences is vastly different, said. "He was like, 'Kids don't watch movies, they watch YouTube.' Which I thought was crazy. So he goes, 'Watch this.' There was a girl in front of us in line, and he said, 'Hey, excuse me, what's your favorite movie?' And she said, 'I don't watch movies.' Just randomly, he picked someone—and she was like 25, she wasn't a child or anything. We were like, 'Well, do any of your friends watch movies?' And she said, 'Not really.'"
As Nanjiani also said later in the piece, Ava DuVernay offered a similar perspective while cautioning against entering into full-blown Old Man Yells at Cloud territory. For DuVernay, Nanjiani, and others looking ahead to the future with open eyes, it's all about reaching a mass audience wherever they happen to congregate.
"When you say that you care about the future of this medium, this legacy, then you have to think about what happens next, and I just don’t think enough people are doing that," DuVernay, whose Netflix drama When They See Us has received a wave of attention and acclaim in recent weeks, said.
Joe and Anthony Russo, they of the box office darling Avengers: Endgame and related fare, said they too have gotten a recent taste of the inherent difficulties of securing full-blown theatrical existences for less explosion-y cinema.
"It is a tough market, even for us coming off Endgame, to make a darker, character-driven movie," Joe, who's now helming the non-Marvel drama Cherry with Anthony, said. "It's not what the market was even two years ago."
The full piece is very much worth your time and can be found right here. As Buchanan explained when rolling out the piece Thursday, many of the excerpted interviews will be released later in full. Stay tuned. And more importantly, stay in touch with the future or get left behind.