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Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

When we look back on 2019, we’ll absolutely remember it as a year where franchises dominated. But Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Avengers: End Game weren’t the only films that pulled in impressive numbers -- and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino thinks that’s because he, and others, were on the frontlines of a “war for movies.”

While interviewing Quentin Tarantino for Deadline, Michael Fleming Jr. pointed out that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood had a great year, both at the box office and now on the awards circuit. And the film found all that success, despite Hollywood leaning heavily into franchise films and sequels. The director had an interesting take on why that may have been the case:

When you say, despite the sequels and the Avengers: Endgame and all of that, I actually think a war for movies got played out this last year.

And you know what? He’s kind-of right. It’s not that non-franchise filmmakers went onto their sets with battle armor on. But amidst a debate over the importance of seeing movies in the cinema, blockbusters weren’t the only films to see exceptional success at the box office. Quentin Tarantino definitely noticed:

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As far as I can see, the commercial product that is owned by the conglomerates, the projects everybody knows about and has in their DNA, whether it be the Marvel Comics, the Star Wars, Godzilla and James Bond, those films never had a better year than last year. It would have been the year that their world domination would have been complete. But it kind of wasn’t. Because of what you said, a lot of original movie [content] came out and demanded to be seen, and demanded to be seen at the theaters. That ended up becoming a really, really strong year. I’m really proud to be nominated with the other films that just got nominated. I think when you sum up the year, it’s cinema that doesn’t fall into that blockbuster IP proof status, made its last stand this year.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood wasn’t the only non-franchise film that made a mark last year. Films like Knives Out, Us, and Parasite proved that there’s room for non-franchise stories to resonate with moviegoers. And Quentin Tarantino thinks those successes happened at a perfect time:

If it hadn’t done it this year, it might have been the last stand for movies like that. This is a really groovy year. To combat something like Avengers: Endgame, which for the month before it came out and the month after, you couldn’t talk about anything else. They tried to do that with this last Star Wars and I don’t think it quite worked, but you couldn’t get on United Airlines without running into all the tie-ins, and even the safety commercial had a Star Wars scene.

The debate over where Marvel movies fit in to the history of cinema likely won’t be over any time soon. While Quentin Tarantino’s cynical view of franchise films may not be entirely fair, he is right to advocate for a wide a variety of stories to be told on our screens. Keep up with everything heading to the big screen this year with our 2020 movie release date schedule.

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