Director Doug Liman took Amazon Studios to task for deciding to release his Jake Gyllenhaal-starring film “Road House” directly on Prime Video instead of in theaters as originally planned, blasting the streamer for treating the film like a Prime add-on to “sell more toasters,”
In a scathing op-ed published by Deadline, Liman accused Amazon of betraying its promise to support theatrical releases, writing, “contrary to their public statements, Amazon has no interest in supporting cinemas.”
Liman explained that he signed on with MGM to make a theatrical film, but after Amazon acquired MGM, the studio backtracked on its promise to support cinemas.
Liman added: “Amazon asked me and the film community to trust them and their public statements about supporting cinemas, and then they turned around and are using ‘Road House’ to sell plumbing fixtures.
Although “Road House” tested higher than some of Liman’s past hits like “The Bourne Identity,” and his biggest box office hit “Mr. and Mrs Smith,” Amazon plans to exclusively stream “Road House” on Prime Video instead of giving it a theatrical release. The film will premiere in March at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
Liman argues that taking the film straight to streaming hurts everyone involved.
“That hurts the filmmakers and stars of Road House who don’t share in the upside of a hit movie on a streaming platform,” the director wrote. “And they deprive Jake Gyllenhaal — who gives a career-best performance — the opportunity to be recognized come award season.”
Liman added: “But the impact goes far beyond this one movie. This could be industry shaping for decades to come.”
More broadly, Liman warns that skipping theatrical releases for streaming threatens the future of movie theaters: “If we don’t put tentpole movies in movie theaters, there won’t be movie theaters in the future.” Liman added, “Without movie theaters, we won’t have the commercial box office hits that are the locomotives that allow studios to take gambles on original movies and new directors. Without movie theaters we won’t have movie stars.”
While Doug Liman says he has “nothing against streaming,” he feels Amazon has “gutted” MGM’s theatrical business, which will have severe consequences for the entire film industry. He implores, “maybe they are victims in this as well, forced to betray the artists they spent their careers supporting.”
Liman even speculated the “villain” here may not even be a person at all. “It may simply be an Amazon computer algorithm. Amazon will sell more toasters if it has more subscribers; it will have more subscribers if it doesn’t have to compete with movie theaters. A computer could come up with that elegant solution as easily as it could solve global warming by killing all humans.”
However, he noted that “a computer doesn’t know what it is like to share the experience of laughing and cheering and crying with a packed audience in a dark theater” – an experience future generations may miss out on “if Amazon has its way.”
TheWrap has reached out to Amazon for comment.
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