Oppenheimer Cinematographer Clashes with Netflix CEO on Movie Screen Size

A woman with long brown hair smiles while looking at her smartphone. She is wearing a white shirt and has white earphones in her ears. The background is blurred, focusing attention on her joyful expression.

After Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos claimed that both Barbie and Oppenheimer would have done just as well on Netflix last summer and boasted his son watched Lawrence of Arabia on his phone, cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema clapped back at him.

Van Hoytema directed the photography for the Oscar-winning Oppenheimer starring Cillian Murphy and directed by Christopher Nolan which employed IMAX 70mm film cameras with the movie being shown on 70mm in selected IMAX theaters.

So it’s perhaps unsurprising that Van Hoytema doesn’t agree with Sarandos’ assessment. The cinematographer tells TMZ that a pocket-sized screen doesn’t hold a candle to the all-encompassing theatrical experience.

Van Hoytema tells the tabloid that catching a movie at the cinema is an experience that has been “expertly curated by filmmakers and artists.” However, he says consuming films on Netflix is more like being subjected to the streamer’s whim.

Oppenheimer cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema urged aspiring filmmakers to shoot with old school film formats in his Oscars acceptance speech.
Hoyte van Hoytema acceping his Oscar.

Van Hoytema makes plain that he bares Sarandos no ill will; even admitting that he has also watched films on mobile devices.

But he tells TMZ that he “pours his soul into creating big-screen cinematic moments” and believes that folks watch his films on a tiny mobile device, sacrificing resolution and color depth, are disrespecting his hard work.

What Did Ted Sarandos Say About Watching Movies on Phones?

Sarandos was mocked for saying his son watched Lawrence of Arabia on a phone. The 1962 epic is widely regarded as one of cinema’s masterpieces, famed for its ravishing desert vistas and it was shot on 70mm film just like Oppenheimer.

The Netflix head honcho made the admission about this son during a New York Times interview just after saying that Barbie and Oppenheimer would have been a hit on Netflix.

“Both of those movies would be great for Netflix,” Sarandos said. “They definitely would have enjoyed just as big an audience on Netflix. And so I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that certain kinds of movies do or don’t work.”

Before adding, “There’s no reason to believe that the movie itself is better in any size of screen for all people. My son’s an editor. He is 28 years old, and he watched Lawrence of Arabia on his phone.”

Brandon Davis reacted to Sarandos’ controversial comments on X (formerly Twitter).

“Ah yes, all of the Barbie pink would’ve been worn and fun and just as much of a phenomenon as people watched it on their phones at home.”

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.