Christopher Nolan recently appeared on the “Countdown to the BAFTAs” podcast and reflected on the record-breaking box office success of “Oppenheimer,” which has earned $958 million worldwide to become the highest-grossing biographical drama in film history. Those box office numbers are more or less unheard of for an incredibly dense, three-hour, R-rated historical drama.
“Everybody has a tendency to talk down the movie business,” Nolan said. “Really for the whole time I think I’ve been working in movies, I felt the sort of cultural establishment always predicting the demise of movie theaters. Now I get asked that question, you know, ‘What do I think about the health of the movie business?’ I don’t really know how to respond. We just released a three-hour, R-rated film about quantum physics and it made a billion dollars. Like what? Obviously our view is that the audience is there and they’re excited to see something new.”
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“The success of ‘Oppenheimer’ certainly points to a sort of post-franchise, post-IP landscape for movies … It’s kind of encouraging,” Nolan added. “It reminds the studios that there is an appetite for something people haven’t seen before or an approach to things that people haven’t seen before.”
With movies like “Oppenheimer” becoming box office powerhouses and superhero movies like “The Flash,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and “The Marvels” disappointing at the box office as of late, perhaps Nolan is on to something when he says a “post-franchise, post-IP landscape” for the movies is becoming more possible.
“Something like ‘Oppenheimer’ working gives other filmmakers a point of reference for how something can work in the marketplace that the studio can relate to,” the filmmaker added on the BAFTA podcast.
Not that Nolan is against franchise filmmaking — he was behind Warner Bros.’ “Dark Knight” trilogy, which brought in more than $2.4 billion at the box office. He told the Associated Press last year that a balance is needed between original films and IP films if Hollywood is to succeed.
“There’s always a balance in Hollywood between established titles that can assure a return in audience and give people more of what they want,” Nolan said at the time. “That’s always been a big part of the economics of Hollywood, and it pays for a lot of other types of films to be made and distributed. But there also always has to be respect for the audience’s desire for something new. That’s one of the big thrills of going to the movies is, frankly, seeing a trailer for a movie you’ve never heard of or type of movie you haven’t seen. A healthy ecosystem in Hollywood is about a balance between the two things and always has been.”
But even with franchises being a necessary element to Hollywood, Nolan stressed to Empire magazine that “the audience’s desire to be surprised, to see something new, to see something they did not know they wanted, that’s always been the most powerful force in theatrical film.”
“Oppenheimer” is up for 13 nominations at both the BAFTA Film Awards and the Academy Awards, including best picture and best director.
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