Last Night in Soho is finally being released at the end of October. In theaters. It’s the culmination of a long road for the movie’s singular writer-director, Edgar Wright, and one he’s had a hand in personally guiding.
When we sat down to talk with Wright in August, the director behind such electric classics as Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and the bonafide blockbuster Baby Driver tells us he’s been championing an October 2021 release date for some time, believing his first full-throated horror movie would have its best chance to be seen in a cinema this fall. That choice came after the film moved due to the COVID-19 pandemic from its original September 2020 release date to April 2021. Now, with a festival rollout complete, it really will be making its spooky season premiere.
No matter what, however, Wright was always adamant Last Night in Soho would open in theaters. As a lifelong advocate of cinemas and the cinematic experience, the auteur even curated a memorable issue of Empire magazine this year, filling it with anecdotes from various filmmakers and stars about the irreplaceable sensation of watching stories in the dark. Which may be why when we brought up the state of the industry in our discussion—and the constant wave of headlines about day and date release strategies, and the fate of theatrical release windows—Wright conceded an exhaustion with a conversation he suspects has been overblown.
“I believe that going to the cinema as the best way of seeing a movie will not go away,” Wright says. “And I just get a bit bored of the endless oxygen taken up by talking about streaming all the time. As a new sort of invention, the only ‘new invention’ part of it is the convenience, and being able to watch all the episodes of a TV show or watch a movie on the first day [it comes to theaters]. Everything else about it is watching something on TV, and that is no different than watching TV when I was growing up or watching a VHS, or watching a DVD. So to me, it’s like no argument. Going to see something on a massive screen is always going to be more immersive.”
Wright goes on to turn the table on the conventional argument made by streaming advocates about the convenience of watching something from the comfort of your own couch, and with the ability to control the experience. To Wright, it is the lack of control that makes cinemas so intoxicating.
“The film is a train leaving the station,” Wright explains, “and if you want to see that film, you’ve got to get on the train and go on the journey with it. The film is going to keep going whether you have to go to the bathroom or not, or whether you want to go and take a call or not. The film is going to just keep going. That’s a powerful thing, because you have to make that choice to be transported. At home, where you’re in charge, it’s like, ‘Oh, I can jump off the train whenever I want. I can pause it. I can go to the bathroom. I can complain that I couldn’t follow the plot,’ when in reality, you were reading social media at the same time.”
Meanwhile from a filmmaker’s perspective, the director notices how many more chances his work has at penetrating the culture and finding an audience as compared to a movie that gets a trailer on a streaming service two weeks before release, comes out, and then vanishes into the glut of content ether.
Says Wright, “There are films that go straight to streaming and they get one bump, but they don’t get four bumps, as in if you have a movie and it’s out in the cinema, and now it’s out on DVD, and now it’s out at home, and then it’s on cable. It keeps having another push. Sometimes you get great films that go to streaming that people talk about in the first week of release and then it’s like somewhere in the sea of thumbnails. And unless it’s right in your face, you’ve forgotten that it’s on there.”
By Wright’s own admission, he’s someone who as soon as cinemas reopened in the UK went to the theater to watch a movie he owned on Blu-ray. Reportedly, it was bliss. With that said, he does not think one avenue of film distribution—theatrical or streaming—negates the other. But he does suspect commentary about cinema’s demise has been greatly exaggerated.
Says Wright, “I feel like I read a lot of articles talking about streaming being the death knell for cinema [and they’re] usually written by people who have a vested interest in streaming.”
Last Night in Soho opens, only in theaters, on Oct. 29 in the U.S. and UK.