Ben Affleck says Oscar-winning Argo would never get a theatrical release today
No one can deny that the pandemic has fundamentally altered moviegoing and exacerbated box office trends already in motion. This month's EW cover star Ben Affleck, for one, says he doesn't think his own 2012 Best Picture winner would even get a theatrical release by today's standards.
"If I had to bet, a drama like Argo would not be made theatrically now," he tells his longtime friend and special EW guest correspondent, Matt Damon in a wide-ranging interview. "That wasn't that long ago. It would be a limited series."
And that, he admits, may be the future of film: "I think movies in theaters are going to become more expensive, event-ized," he says. "They're mostly going to be for younger people, and mostly about 'Hey, I'm so into the Marvel Universe, I can't wait to see what happens next.' And there'll be 40 movies a year theatrically, probably — all IP, sequel, animated."
It's a shift, as he sees it, that's been a long time coming. "When The Way Back came out, it was released the week they closed the theaters [for the pandemic]," the actor says of his well-reviewed but little-seen 2020 drama. "But even before then I knew this movie about grief and a child dying and alcoholism and recovery is just not going to get adults in the seats. We were just talking about Narcos: Mexico, Succession, Mare of Easttown. There's these amazing things being done on streamers. Roma! It's not just some formulaic TV procedural, like when we were kids. And you could only watch it like my dad, on an 11-inch black and white TV."
But for Affleck, the disappointing box office returns of The Last Duel, a project he co-wrote with Damon and Nicole Holofcener and played a supporting role in, was the final sign of just how much things have changed — even though his turn in that film and The Tender Bar, currently streaming Amazon Prime Video, have garnered him some of the best notices of his career.
"The Last Duel really clinched it for me," he says of the Ridley Scott drama, which failed to ignite in theaters but quickly rose to No. 1 on the iTunes movies chart. "I've had bad movies that didn't work and I didn't blink. I know why people didn't go, because they weren't good. But I liked what we did. I like what we had to say. I'm really proud of it. So I was really confused. And then to see that it did well on streaming, I thought, 'Well, there you go. That's where the audience is.'"
Additional reporting by Leah Greenblatt.
A version of this story appears in the February issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Jan. 21 and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.