One person who won’t be attendance when Doug Liman’s “Road House” opens this year’s SXSW Film Festival? Doug Liman. In a revealing new guest column for Deadline, director Liman shared that he is going to “silently protest” the fact that his “Road House” will not be in theaters. Liman’s choice is based on his unhappiness over Amazon MGM Studios’ decision to release the film solely on streaming platform Prime Video, foregoing a theatrical window.
A remake of the iconic 1989 film, Liman writes that “Road House” is “so clearly made for the big screen” and “maybe [his] best film.” He continues, “But Amazon is hurting way more than just me and my film. If I don’t speak up about Amazon, who will?”
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Liman also details the negotiations that went into the film’s release. “When Amazon bought MGM, one of the few remaining studios making big commercial films for theatrical release (movies like ‘Bond,’ ‘Creed’) they announced that they would put a billion dollars into theatrical motion pictures, releasing at least 12 a year,” Liman wrote. “They touted it as ‘the largest commitment to cinemas by an internet company.’ I can tell you what they then did to me and my film ‘Road House,’ which is the opposite of what they promised when they took over MGM.”
Liman continued, “The facts: I signed up to make a theatrical motion picture for MGM. Amazon bought MGM. Amazon said make a great film and we will see what happens. I made a great film. We made ‘Road House’ a ‘smash hit’ — Amazon’s words not mine, btw. ‘Road House’ tested higher than my biggest box office hit, ‘Mr. and Mrs Smith.’ It tested higher than ‘Bourne Identity,’ which spawned four sequels. I’m told the press response has been Amazon’s best since they bought MGM. … Jake Gyllenhaal gives a career-defining performance in a role he was born to play. Audiences will want to see UFC mega-star Conor McGregor take his debut swing at Jake on the big screen.”
Liman noted that, due to the Academy’s eligibility restrictions requiring a limited theatrical run for films, Gyllenhaal and “Road House” will not qualify for awards season. He wrote that the release choice will “deprive Jake Gyllenhaal — who gives a career-best performance — the opportunity to be recognized come award season.”
“What else could I have delivered to the studio? Nothing, it turns out. Because contrary to their public statements, Amazon has no interest in supporting cinemas,” Liman wrote. “Amazon will exclusively stream ‘Road House’ on Amazon Prime. 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.”
Liman also notes that this goes far beyond his film, writing, “This could be industry shaping for decades to come. If we don’t put tentpole movies in movie theaters, there won’t be movie theaters in the future. Movies like ‘Road House,’ people actually want to see on the big screen, and it was made for the big screen. 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.”
Liman credited “brave filmmakers like Chris Nolan and Tom Cruise [who] insisted their movies play in the theater, and they proved audiences are still there” post-pandemic. However, according to Liman, Amazon is instead committed to “gutting MGM and its theatrical business, as I would have been had Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post and then gutted its newsroom (he did the opposite).”
Liman summed up, “We tried everything to convince them to put ‘Road House’ in theaters — they know all the arguments I presented here. I even asked them to allow me to sell ‘Road House’ to another studio that would put it in theaters — they said no. Maybe they are victims in this as well, forced to betray the artists they spent their careers supporting.”
You can read Liman’s full article here.
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