When the Russo Brothers movie The Gray Man, starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, was released on Netflix earlier this year, the directors made it clear that they were not bothered by its lack of theatrical release. Despite the fact that they were the directors of two of the highest-grossing movies of all time, they believe the size of that success will not be replicated. They believe that Marvel‘s Avengers: Endgame making $1.2 billion in its opening weekend alone will never be replicated.
“It will never happen again,” Joe Russo says, in a new interview with Variety. “That was an apex of that era of theatrical filmmaking. When we started [production company] AGBO, we already felt the winds shifting.” He later added; “I’ve got four kids, so I can identify Gen Z’s habits pretty accurately. They don’t have the same emotional connection to watching things in a theatre.”
“This is a shoot-the-messenger situation,” Joe says. “I’m just telling you what I see, as a guy who has been in this business for 25 years. I don’t know that the market is going to be able to support art-house films the way that it did in the past.”
“I’ve had conversations with the folks at Disney recently — they have the same philosophy, that we’re headed towards the digital future that allows them to access their audiences anywhere at any time with any of their assets,” Joe Russo says. “Whether we like it or not, the advent of AI, the advent of three-dimensional projectors that don’t require glasses, the advent of deep-fakes — everything that’s coming is going to transition the face of media as we know it. And we’re interested in turning the car towards that.”
“One of the things they said in our first meeting was ‘Our kids don’t watch movies the way we did, and we were kind of late to the game with this last generation of storytelling.’”
“Filmmaking is going to transform into some other medium. I don’t know what that media is going to be. My guess is that when you can sit in your house, turn to one of the actors that is standing in front of you and say, ‘Hey, Tom Cruise, hold on a second. Tell me about how you filmed this scene,’ and the AI-fueled Tom Cruise can turn to you and start explaining, it’s over at that point, right? That’s when technology will dominate whatever new form of storytelling is coming,” says Joe Russo, terrifyingly.
It sounds like the Russos certainly have an eye on a future which at the moment sounds like science fiction. Those of us who enjoy going to cinemas and going to have to fight to maintain that experience.