When Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins criticized straight-to-streaming movies, she reignited a conversation about the merits (or lack thereof) of movies hitting Netflix instead of a multiplex. While some film industry veterans have been famously pro-cinema, one of Freaky's screenwriters has now spoken up in defense of that model. His personal story about how the film benefited from a streaming release seemed to be in response to Jenkins’ comments -- but it also provided another perspective on an increasingly complicated conversation surrounding movie distribution.
It’s been awhile since we debated whether movies made for or distributed by streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max are as good as those that hit the big screen. Before COVID-19, the argument for seeing a movie in a theater was compelling -- it’s what we’ve always done, it arguably creates a more memorable experience. But a lot has changed in the last year and a half. Some films that were scheduled for theatrical releases ended up on streaming platforms without ever seeing a theater projector. Though Christopher Landon’s horror comedy Freaky, starring Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton, did have a brief theatrical run, it was simultaneously available on VOD. The film eventually made its way to HBO Max -- and, according to its screenwriter, Michael Kennedy, that was actually a good thing:
While Kennedy didn’t directly reference Patty Jenkins, it seems likely that his tweet was in response to her recent comments that movies that are put out by streaming services look like “fake movies.” It’s a controversial opinion but not surprising given her well-documented frustration at Wonder Woman 1984 being released on HBO Max. She was vocal about her feelings that the streaming release, while necessary due to the pandemic, was detrimental to the movie’s success.
It’s interesting that Kennedy’s experience was so different, then. While he acknowledges that Freaky receiving a full theatrical release would have been ideal, he doesn’t seem to think there was a downside to its run on HBO Max. He sees the benefit in the movie providing a reprieve to viewers in a difficult time and makes a case for the potential longevity of a film’s popularity when it hits a streaming service.
While Patty Jenkins’ frustration is understandable, it’s also fair to argue that films produced and distributed online are increasingly being seen as legitimate works of art. With every passing year, Netflix sees an increase in the number of accolades its films receive.
Even in the post-COVID era, streaming platforms will keep making movies and attracting big stars with lucrative offers. Even when the line between which movies are and are not streaming releases becomes clearer again, it may become increasingly difficult to argue that a movie is less real because it doesn’t play in a movie theater. If nothing else, it’s good to hear from a screenwriter who seems to have embraced the positive side of this strange period in movie history.
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