David Fincher Has Some Blunt Thoughts About Tentpole Movie Culture

Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz behind the scenes of Mank

Modernity has done a lot to change the function of the movie industry. Entertainment is now available to people in more ways than ever before in history, and both what gets made and how its gets made has evolved a great deal as a result. While there are some positive aspects to it, there are also some stark negatives, and director David Fincher has pointed at a massive one in a recent interview.

The filmmaker has been making the press rounds in recent weeks promoting the upcoming release of his new film, Mank, and while talking with Total Film the conversation led him to discuss the fact that the big screen experience has become a kind of binary thing in the modern world, which is to say really only available to massive blockbusters and the award season fodder. Said Fincher,

Unless you’re making a tentpole movie that has a Happy Meal component to it, no one’s interested… There’s really only two seasons for movies. There’s ‘spandex summer’ and there’s ‘affliction winter’. You’re making your movie for one of two seasons. And if you miss, you’ll fall into one of those other two seasons, which are nominally dumping grounds.

One could make the argument that David Fincher is forgetting about the wave of "micro-budget" titles (which is to say movies that are made for less than $10 million) that have become a big part of the release calendar, but the core of his point is wholly factual. With studios ever more focused on massive investments or guaranteed prestige pictures, movies that aim for a budget in the $30-50 million range have become hard to get made and, as a result, rare.

Mank is a perfect example of this issue. Being a movie that couldn't be made properly with a seven-figure budget, David Fincher struggled for years to get the support he needed to get the project made. Fortunately he was able to find a proper partner in Netflix (with whom he previously worked with on shows including House of Cards and Mindhunter), but it's still immensely frustrating that a work with such remarkable potential would have issues getting made. Fincher expressed a similar sentiment thusly:

I’m not really just a jaded fuck. I’m an informed, jaded fuck.

Based on a script written by David Fincher's late father, Mank tells the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz – who notably co-wrote the script for what is considered one of the greatest films of all time: Citizen Kane. The movie chronicles not only his journey penning the classic, but also his experiences through the 1930s working in Hollywood and the inspiration he found for the story.

Mank stars Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, and Arliss Howard, and following a limited theatrical release that is set to begin this weekend the movie will have its Netflix streaming debut on December 4. The film is very likely the best feature to be released in 2020, so do yourself a favor and check it out as soon as you possibly can.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.