James Cameron Doesn’t Want You Ever Watching His Movies On A Phone

James Cameron is not a fan of streaming but thinks cell phones have too many distractions to watch a movie on them.

By Sean Thiessen | Published

James Cameron has strong opinions about streaming movies and the theatrical experience. The Avatar: The Way of Water director has admitted to taking issue with streaming, but in an interview with NPR, he expanded on why. For James Cameron, the movie theater is not just about a large screen and optimal sound, it’s about focus.

James Cameron told NPR that if viewers choose to watch The Way of Water at home on a big TV with decent speakers, they will probably enjoy themselves. Where he drew the line, however, was watching the film on a cell phone.

“I think when you start looking at something on a phone, you’re sort of missing the point,” explained James Cameron. “Going to a movie theater is less about the size of the screen and the perfection of the sound system. And it’s more about a decision to not multitask.”

Streaming a movie at home, especially on a phone, has its advantages: bathroom and snack breaks, answering a text without getting kicked out, watching a long movie over multiple days, etc. For James Cameron, these conveniences compromise the integrity of the experience, and that’s what makes a movie theater so valuable.

“You’re making a deal between yourself and a piece of art to give it your full attention,” he said of the theatrical experience. “And you don’t when you’re at home. People don’t cry as much when they watch a movie at home as they will in a movie theater. You don’t have the depth of emotion.”

Depth of emotion, or rather the lack thereof, has been one of James Cameron’s chief criticisms of modern blockbusters. With The Way of Water, he is trying to turn the tide. The film has been praised for its improvement over its predecessor’s story as it brings high stakes, gripping tension, and emotional consequences to the big screen.

Avatar: The Way of Water

James Cameron has also been one to put his faith in the market, and so far, audiences seem to agree with his sentiments. Crowds have packed theaters for The Way of Water to put the film within striking distance of the $2 billion mark in its first month in theaters. As the landscape for viewing movies continues to shift, Cameron is dedicated to making films worthy of the theatrical experience, and he has more on the way.

Avatar 3 is slated to debut in 2024, followed by two more sequels to be released every two years. Though many have been put off by James Cameron expressing distaste for streaming, the filmmaker seems prepared to put his money where his mouth is for the Avatar sequels.

James Cameron has made what many consider to be two of the best sequels of all time, Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. He said that the key to sequels is to ground the film in familiarity, delivering what audiences loved about the original while offering pleasant surprises. Based on reviews and box office totals, it seems he is on the right track with the Avatar franchise.

Whether it’s the advanced motion capture and 3D, or the development of real-time rendering on set, the Avatar films represent enormous leaps in filmmaking technology. The scale of James Cameron’s films has always been big, and with The Way of Water, he has taken things to a new level to earn amazement from theatrical audiences. Still, Cameron believes that the primary purpose of the movie theater is its optimization for emotional involvement with the story.

James Cameron believes that movies deserve an audience’s full focus. He also believes that audiences deserve movies worthy of precious attention. With the Avatar franchise, Cameron is attempting to strike the key balance that honors the audience and the craft of filmmaking and justifies a trip to cinemas that are holding on for dear life.