Paul Schrader Netflix

Steven Spielberg has been making headlines recently with his disdain for Netflix and what he sees as their disrespect for the theatrical experience. But his opinion isn’t shared by everyone in the business. Paul Schrader, the writer and director of First Reformed (and many other films), understands that there’s nothing wrong with the changing landscape of movie watching. At the same time, the director is also happy that Netflix didn’t buy First Reformed. He also has come up with a good solution to the whole matter.

Netflix has evolved into a powerful film distributor, and even scooped up some Oscars with their recent release Roma. But not everyone is happy about this. Steven Spielberg in particular seems to be furious that the streaming giant has grown so large, particularly because he hates their release model. While Netflix does release films theatrically from time to time, they primarily use a straight-to-streaming platform that angers people who consider the theatrical experience to be sacred. People like Spielberg.

But not everyone agrees. Paul Schrader, the talented and constantly grumbly filmmaker behind First Reformed, recently offered up a nuanced take on the matter. On his Facebook Page, Schrader wrote:

I have no animus against Netflix. Ted Sarandos is as smart about film as any studio exec I’ve ever met. Distribution models evolve. The notion of squeezing 200+ people into a dark unventilated space to see a flickering image was created by exhibition economics not any notion of the ‘theatrical experience.’ Netflix allows many financially marginal films to have a platform and that’s a good thing.

Hey everyone, Paul Schrader is right! However, Schrader is also happy that a distributor like A24 snapped up First Reformed, instead of Netflix:

First Reformed was sold at a bargain price to A24 out of the Toronto FF. Netflix, which could have snapped it up as easily as it swats a fly on its ass, passed. As did Amazon. As did Sony Classics and Focus. But A24 saw a commercial path for this austere aesthetic film. As a result First Reformed found a life. A24 rolled it out through festivals and screenings from 2017 to 2018. And it survived. Not a big money maker but profitable for A24 and a jewel in their crown. Would First Reformed have found this public acceptance if Netflix and scooped it up (at say twice the price A24 payed) and dumped it into its larder? Perhaps Bird Box and Kissing Booth can fight their way through the vast sea of Netflix product to find popular acceptance, but First Reformed? Unlikely.

First, I just want to say I’m highly amused that Paul Schrader is aware of the movie Kissing Booth. Second, I also see what he’s saying here as well. This is a tricky situation. Does Schrader have a solution? He does! And it’s a pretty good one: “My proposal: For club cinemas (Alamo Drafthouse, Metrograph, Burns Center, Film Forum) to form an alliance with a two tiered streaming system (first tier: Criterion/Mubi, second tier: Netflix/Amazon).”

Would the folks so furious about Netflix’s model go for this? I don’t know. But Schrader’s take is the most level-headed I’ve seen so far.

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