UPDATED with video from speech: Many were betting that Netflix had Best Picture – Drama and Best Director wins at the Golden Globes in the bag with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. Then Universal/Amblin’s World War I epic 1917 pulled a surprise attack, taking home not only the evening’s top prize but also giving director Sam Mendes his second Globe win after American Beauty.
1917 was one of the last films to hit theaters this awards season, after being screened for awards members before Thanksgiving. In limited release since Christmas Day in 11 theaters including New York, Los Angeles and DC, the pic has grossed $2.2 million.
“This is a huge thing for this movie, it opens in a week wide,” Mendes said onstage after winning the night’s marquee category. “It’s difficult to make big movies without big movie stars in the leads, and get people to come and see it in a cinema. And i really hope this means that people will turn up and see it on the big screen for which it was intended.”
1917, co-written by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns and filmed using one continuous shot, tells the story of two British soldiers given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop their own men from walking straight into a deadly trap to save thousands of lives.
George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman play the main roles alongside a cast that includes Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The film has been racking up awards-season kudos, including being named a Top 10 Film of the Year by AFI. Roger Deakins was just nominated for an ASC Award for the cinematography.
While we asked Alfonso Cuaron last year after winning Best Foreign Film and director for Roma at the Globes whether the cinematic experience was poised to capsize due to the growth in streaming and Netflix’s access of major filmmakers, Mendes was questioned backstage whether non-franchise movies like 1917 could still be made down the road given fewer major motion picture studios.
In sum, how does he fell about the theatrical experience?
“I think I’m optimistic. I think it’s in the hands of filmmakers more than anything else,” said the American Beauty Oscar winner. “They need to make movies that need to be seen on the big screen. If you don’t see them on the big screen, you’ll miss out. That’s the big challenge.”
The filmmaker mentioned how it would be harder in this day and age to make his dramas like American Beauty, Revolutionary Road and Away We Go, and that if he had a truncated theatrical-streaming model, he wouldn’t be against it. It’s a plus for these types of movies in reaching a wide audience.
“But filmmakers need to be ambitious (about the big screen): Use Surround Sound, and Imax in every fiber of their being,” added Mendes.
1917 opens Friday at 3,300-plus theaters. Tracking has the film poised to do $20M+, but with a Golden Globe Best Drama Film win, a box office bounce has to be in store.