Upending the major-studio model of theatrical film releases is easier said than done. Even with streaming juggernauts like Netflix and Amazon muscling their way into the industry, there’s still really only one way to debut your movie nationwide in thousands of theaters, along with the kind of expensive marketing push needed to draw in audiences. And that’s with the help of a company like Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Disney, Universal, Paramount, or Sony, who have the apparatus necessary for such a rollout but demand the kind of creative control and marketing strategy that suits their bottom line.
It’s this system that supposedly drove the Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, Erin Brockovich) away from making films for four years—in 2013, he announced Side Effects would be his last movie and that he was retiring from filmmaking. But after spending some time dabbling in TV with projects like Behind the Candelabra and The Knick, Soderbergh is back with a new heist comedy, Logan Lucky, and with it he’s trying to find a way around the big businesses that frustrated him so much in the past.
His strategy is fascinatingly laid out in a New York Times piece from Brooks Barnes about the production of Logan Lucky, a charming, shaggy caper about a West Virginia family (played by Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Riley Keough) who rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway with the help of an inveterate safe-cracker named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Due for release on August 18, the film is getting the kind of wide rollout usually reserved for big studio movies, but the manner of its production and its release could offer an intriguing model for the future.