Doug Liman Protests Amazon MGM's Decision to Stream 'Road House' by Skipping SXSW Premiere of His Film Starring Jake Gyllenhaal

My plan was to quietly protest Amazon’s choice to stream a movie that’s meant for the big screen. Amazon’s actions are not just affecting me and my movie, but much more. I feel the need to speak up about this. So, let’s get into it.

When Amazon purchased MGM, a studio known for big movies like Bond and Creed, they promised to invest a billion dollars in movies for theaters, releasing about 12 a year. They called it a big commitment to cinemas. However, what happened with my film, Road House, tells a different story.

Here’s what happened: I agreed to make a movie for MGM, meant for theaters. Then Amazon bought MGM and told me to make a great film, and we’d see what happens. I did make a great film.

Road House became a hit, at least according to Amazon. It scored higher than my biggest film, Mr. and Mrs Smith, and even higher than Bourne Identity. It has a strong connection to UFC, attracting a massive social media following, even before marketing began. The action scenes are unique, and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is outstanding. It’s a film people would love to see in theaters. But, Amazon chose to stream it on Prime instead.

This decision hurts. It affects the filmmakers and actors of Road House who don’t benefit from a successful streaming movie. It also takes away the chance for Jake Gyllenhaal to be recognized during awards season. But the impact is bigger than just one movie. If big films don’t go to theaters, we may lose theaters altogether. Films like Road House are meant for the big screen. Without theaters, we lose the opportunity for new movies and directors.

Film executives are in trouble too. Box office revenues fund new movies. With fewer movies in theaters, there’s less money, leading to industry layoffs, including at Amazon. If theaters close, the recovery could take decades.

During the pandemic, we thought theaters might not survive. We got used to watching movies at home. But once restrictions lifted, people returned to theaters. Filmmakers like Chris Nolan and Tom Cruise insisted on theatrical releases, proving that people still enjoy the communal experience of watching movies together.

I’m not against streaming movies. I’ve worked on streaming projects for Amazon and Warner Bros, and I’m doing one for Apple now. But I am against Amazon changing MGM’s focus from theaters to streaming. It’s like if Jeff Bezos had bought the Washington Post and gutted its newsroom (which he didn’t do).

I respect Amazon’s film executives. They have experience with theatrical releases. We tried convincing them to release Road House in theaters. I even asked to sell it to another studio for a theatrical release, but they refused. Perhaps they’re also caught in this situation.

It might be that there’s no single person to blame. Maybe it’s an Amazon algorithm prioritizing more subscribers over competing with movie theaters. But a computer can’t understand the joy of watching a movie with an audience in a theater. If Amazon continues this way, future audiences might never know that experience.

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