We’re a month away from the fall festivals that throw us headlong into awards season 2022, but one film is already planting its flag for 2023: OppenheimerChristopher Nolan’s historical drama about the inventor of the atomic bomb.
The teaser was released online (after playing exclusively in theaters before Nope), and it shows Cillian Murphy in black and white as Robert Oppenheimer, and the voice of Robert Downey, Jr. in the narration (at least I’m pretty sure it’s RDJ, he plays the rival Oppenheimer’s politician, Lewis Strauss), calling Oppenheimer “the man who moved the earth”. It establishes that the film will be released on July 21, 2023 and nothing else.
Its good. “A Christopher Nolan Movie” is pretty much all you need to get butts in the seats. He’s one of the few directors to rule the audience on his own, no matter what movie he’s directing (except for that one time he released a movie in the middle of a fucking global pandemic). Oppenheimer, however, is a new chapter in Nolan’s career. He was a longtime Warner Brothers collaborator, but after Jason Kilar’s decision to stream everything in 2021, Nolan openly said the decision was a mistake, saying: “Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars have gone to bed the night before they thought they were working for the biggest movie studio and woke up to find they were working for the worst department. streaming.”
Regardless that Jason Kilar is no longer in charge at Warners, and indeed the entire WarnerMedia entity is dead, Nolan has left for more theatrical pastures. Rumor has it that he made an incredible list of demands, including a $100 million production budget and an equal advertising budget for his historical drama, and a 20% “first reception” box office attendance. meaning he gets his bonuses before the movie even breaks. same. Oh also Nolan wanted a six week exclusivity window from the studio, three weeks on each side of his movie in which the studio won’t release anything else, not even movies aimed at different audiences, like an animated movie for children. Even with the Principle disaster, Nolan is literally one of the only people who can make such demands and enforce them.
And Universal has responded to those (alleged) demands. Oppenheimer has an estimated budget of $100 million. At this time, Universal doesn’t have any movies releasing at least three weeks before or after July 21, 2023. And they’re obviously spending on marketing, as evidenced by this teaser from earlier this year. So Nolan got his wishes, and now we’ll see what his appeal is with theater attendance generally back to normal. A good gauge is Elvis, also a historical drama aimed at mature audiences, with a nine-figure budget (estimated at $150 million, all inclusive). It’s trucking going, with $122 million domestic at the time of this writing. That’s not bad, especially since adult dramas are one of the genres most often transferred to streaming in this brave new world. But will it satisfy Christopher Nolan? Dunkirk earned $189 million domestically in 2017. Expectations for Oppenheimer will be in this neighborhood. But after Principle and Nolan’s weird insistence that people go to the movies when COVID was still new and people were very uncertain, will his appeal be the same?