‘Interstellar’ Avoids the Thanksgiving Screener Rush: ‘It’s a Theatrical Experience,’ Says Christopher Nolan

Most awards contenders are already in the hands of voters, but Nolan prefers that his film be seen in theaters

Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar
Melinda Sue Gordon

Awards voters were bombarded with DVD screeners in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving break. It was all part of the annual rush to put awards hopefuls in the hands of Academy, guild and critics-group members who may tote a stack of screeners as they prepare for a long work-free weekend on vacation or with family.

In the week before Thanksgiving, for example, deliveries included “Birdman” from Fox Searchlight, “Boyhood” from IFC, “The Theory of Everything” from Focus, “Gone Girl” from Fox, “Foxcatcher” from Sony Classics and “Inherent Vice” from Warner Bros. Also included were several films that aren’t in theaters yet, among them Disney’s “Into the Woods,” Searchlight’s “Wild,” Relativity’s “Black or White” and WB’s “American Sniper.”

Among the top contenders that are already in theaters, only Christopher Nolan‘s “Interstellar” is conspicuous in its absence from the screener stacks.

But Paramount has gone out of its way to make sure that voters know they don’t have to pay to see the film in theaters: On Monday, members of at least one large critics’ group, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, received vouchers good for admission to public screenings of the film in any theaters except AMC.

On Thanksgiving Day, an email from a Paramount awards consultant followed, offering to arrange admission to the voter and his or her “family and friends” to any theater. AMPAS and most guild members are already admitted free to any screening – and for those who don’t want to mingle with regular moviegoers, the studio is hosting two private screenings this weekend in Los Angeles and one each in San Francisco and New York.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Nolan’s film is avoiding the screener route for now, even though the director’s “Inception” sent out screeners in 2010 and “The Dark Knight Rises” did the same in 2012.

Nolan is a notable proponent of the theatrical experience, shooting “Interstellar” for IMAX and giving theaters that show the movie on film rather than digital a two-day head start on the release.

“I think it’s much better to have people see it on a big screen [than a screener],” Nolan said this week in an interview conducted for TheWrap’s print edition. “That’s my theory, anyway.”

He previously sent out screeners during awards season, he added, because those films were released earlier in the year, meaning he’d already had time to prepare the movies for home video.

“We’d never done a November release before – we’re usually in the summer,” he said. “So I’ve only just started doing the video master. And the way my process works, it would be a bit counter-intuitive to be inviting people to watch it at home when it’s in the theaters.”

Added Nolan’s producer, Emma Thomas, “Particularly given the sort of movie it is. It’s very much a big screen experience.”

“I think more than any film we’ve made, it’s an experience as much as a film,” agreed Nolan. “It’s very much about trying to take the audience on a ride, and it’s a theatrical experience.

“So yeah, we’re certainly trying to get people to see it in theaters as much as possible.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that “The Imitation Game” screeners had not gone out, but indeed some groups have received the screener. TheWrap regrets the error.