Paramount Makes an Exception on Digital for Nolan

Interstellar will be distributed on film

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Well that didn’t take long. Paramount seems to want to make Interstellar director Christopher Nolan happy, so less than a week after announcing they will forsake film distribution for 100% digital, they are making an exception.

“In keeping with the digital direction of the studio’s exhibition partners, we have moved forward with the conversion to primarily digital projection …  Although we anticipate the majority of the studio’s future releases to be executed in digital formats across the U.S., select exceptions will be made,” – Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures

Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore isn’t reversing course, mind you, Paramount is still moving forward with digital distribution of all their films. But he does remain open to the artistic choice of releasing in film for select exceptions, and Nolan’s Interstellar, happens to be one of them. And it makes sense if you have a high profile director who is on a crusade to save the medium that he loves, and is also shooting your next major studio release.

And it isn’t surprising considering Paramount was part of a multi-studio agreement last year with Kodak’s Film Division to continue to buy motion picture film stock for movie and television production. But at the time, they were likely thinking of using film only as a source material, and continued to move on with plans to go with digital distribution.

Studios can save thousands per screen in distribution costs by simply shipping a hard drive with the film on it to theaters, rather ship out several reels of film in heavy cases. Shipping costs alone make it a sound financial decision to go digital.

But when Batman‘s close friend comes knocking on your door to talk about film and he’s bringing your distribution partner with him, you gotta listen, because that’s a billion dollar film director. OK, I don’t really know if that actually happened, but Nolan has Warner Brothers‘ ear and Paramount made an abrupt tack on their digital distribution, so clearly phone calls were made. And like Nolan, some directors aren’t going gently into that good night with the digital trend and aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid.

But even with the concession that Interstellar will be released in film on November 7, Paramount is hedging its bets and also shipping digital copies to theaters as well. And it won’t stop Paramount from moving forward with it’s digital plans. And since we know already that 20th Century Fox has similar designs, it seems that 2014 will be the tipping point and mark the end of film as a distributed medium.

I’m betting Warner Brothers, Universal and Disney will all end up joining Paramount and Fox in going nearly all-digital with its distribution in the coming months. The cost benefits are just too  great when you’re talking 2500 theaters for a major film release.

But for now, we have to say “Advantage Nolan.”  The question is, though, how long can he keep the barbarians at the gate?

Hat Tip – /Film

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.