Director Doug Liman’s upcoming film Road House will be the opening film at the SXSW festival this year, but he won’t be in attendance. In a guest column for Deadline, Liman explained his decision to boycott his own movie premiere, saying that he is protesting Amazon’s decision to release the film on streaming instead of in theaters. The film, a new version of Patrick Swayze’s 1989 classic, stars Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role, and Liman says, “Amazon is hurting way more than just me and my film.”
Road House Director Takes Aim At Amazon
Liman makes a lot of good points in his article, many of which have been made by other industry titans like Christopher Nolan and Tom Cruise when it comes to theatrical releases (Liman even name-checks their efforts in the article.) First, he mentions that Amazon is actively reneging on its promise to put one billion dollars toward theatrical motion pictures after it bought MGM. Liman then recounts his experience making the film for Amazon, saying, “ 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.”
Road House Was Made For Theaters
As Liman breaks it down, he signed up to make Road House a theatrical release for MGM, which Amazon then bought. Amazon then told him they’d wait to see the quality of the film before committing to a theatrical release. Liman says he made “a great film” and reiterates this by pointing out that Amazon called the film a “smash hit.”
Road House Is Already A Social Media Hit
Not only that but apparently, Road House tested higher with audiences than both Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Bourne Identity, which were two of Liman’s biggest theatrical hits. Additionally, Liman said he was told that it has received the best press response out of any film Amazon has had since acquiring MGM and that the UFC tie-in (Conor McGregor has a role) has generated over 1.5 billion social media impressions for the movie. Though Liman doesn’t touch on it in his article, there’s also the fact that plenty of people love the Swayze original and would undoubtedly buy a ticket to watch a remake on the big screen.
The Depressing Theory Behind A Streaming Release
Given all of the facts Doug Liman brings up in his article, this certainly does seem like an odd decision for Amazon. There’s little doubt that there is hype for Road House, and it seems like it would be an easy box office win. So, why is Amazon holding back and streaming it exclusively on Prime?
Liman has a theory on this, too. As he puts it, “The reality is there may not be a human villain in this story – it may simply be an Amazon computer algorithm,” adding, “Amazon will sell more toasters if it has more subscribers; it will have more subscribers if it doesn’t have to compete with movie theaters.” It’s a simple explanation, but it’s probably also the right one. If Amazon has run the numbers and decided a streaming release is more profitable, then that’s likely what the mega-corporation is going to do.
The Move Will Hurt Theaters
However, it does come at the expense of a lot of things. As Liman points out, it “deprives Jake Gyllenhaal the opportunity to be recognized come award season.” But that’s just the beginning, as he adds, “If we don’t put tentpole movies in movie theaters, there won’t be movie theaters in the future.”
Road House Director Hopes To Stop This From Happening Again
Liman elegantly ended his column by appealing to the love of going to the theater, saying, “a computer doesn’t know what it is like to share the experience of laughing and cheering and crying with a packed audience in a dark theater – and if Amazon has its way, future audiences won’t know either.” It’s an affecting point and one that rings a little too close to home. While it seems like Amazon is committed to showing Road House anywhere but the big screen, maybe efforts like Liman’s will prevent it from happening too often in the future.