Denis Villeneuve Says ‘Oppenheimer’ Reminds Us Film Is an ‘Art Form’ and Not ‘Content,’ Paul Thomas Anderson Calls $900 Million Gross ‘Nature’s Way of Healing’

Denis Villeneuve and Paul Thomas Anderson marveled at Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” crossing the $900 million mark at the worldwide box office, which makes the Universal Pictures release the highest-grossing biopic in history. In an interview with the Associated Press, Villeneuve said he knew “Oppenheimer” was a “masterpiece” on first viewing, but he never thought it would be nearing $1 billion at the global box office.

“Where it is right now has blown the roof off of my projection,” Villeneuve said. “It’s a three-hour movie about people talking about nuclear physics.”

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“When you make a film, you hope that you’re going to connect with an audience in some form or another,” Nolan’s longtime producer and wife Emma Thomas told AP. “But, particularly with a three-hour film that has a serious subject and is challenging in many ways, this sort of success is beyond our wildest imaginings.”

According to AP, the film has earned over $179 million in IMAX grosses. The large-format experience is highly valued by Villeneuve, who shot scenes for both “Dune” movies using IMAX cameras.

“The future of cinema is IMAX and the large formats,” Villeneuve said. “The audience wants to see something that they cannot have at home, that they cannot have on streaming. They want to experience an event.”

“There’s this notion that movies, in some people’s minds, became content instead of an art form. I hate that word, ‘content,’” he added. “That movies like ‘Oppenheimer’ are released on the big screen and become an event brings back a spotlight on the idea that it’s a tremendous art form that needs to be experienced in theaters.”

Paul Thomas Anderson also credited “Oppenheimer” with bolstering interest in 70mm formats. Per the AP: “Domestically, the 25 IMAX 70mm screens [for ‘Oppenheimer’] have grossed some $20 million; standard 70mm locations accounted for over $14 million.”

“When a filmmaker as strong as Chris is pointing a finger at you and telling you where to go… you listen…and audiences have been rewarded for it,” Anderson said. “I know some film buffs who drove from El Paso to Dallas to see the film properly. That’s about 18 hours round trip.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone who could disagree — seeing ‘Oppenheimer’ on film is superior in every single way,” he added. “Not to mention, people are tired of asking, ‘Why would I go to a movie theater to watch TV?’ Good question… you don’t have to anymore… I would call this is nature’s way of healing.”

“Oppenheimer” continues to play in theaters nationwide from Universal.

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