Netflix Is Willing to Release Original Movies Into Theaters, But Only After They’re on Netflix
Yesterday, Indiewire film critic David Ehrlich ran an illuminating essay on Netflix’s testy relationship with the original films it releases, explaining how their model of bypassing theatrical release and going straight to streaming ultimately degrades the viewing experience and makes the movies harder to find and appreciate. (This comes hot on the heels of an official denunciation from the Federation of French Cinemas against the Cannes Film Festival for allowing TV into their lineup for the first time ever.) Clearly, his words went straight to the top of Netflix’s corporate office, as the online video giant has issued a letter to their shareholders assuring them that everything’s going to be fine and movies aren’t dead, probably.
The Verge has reproduced a choice quote from the official communique, and Netflix doesn’t want anyone to get the idea that they’re gunning for the brick-and-mortar theater:
Since our members are funding these films, they should be the first to see them. But we are also open to supporting the large theater chains, such as AMC and Regal in the US, if they want to offer our films, such as our upcoming Will Smith film Bright, in theaters simultaneous to Netflix. Let consumers choose.
That last bit, the “let the consumers choose” line, that sounds a little bit like a challenge that Netflix knows it’s going to win. Way back in the far-off days of 2015, they released festival sensation Beasts of No Nation in theaters the old-fashioned way. But because viewers were faced with the choice of leaving the house and paying money versus not leaving the house and paying money, the movie made peanuts at the box-office. So, no, Netflix will not kill the theatrical distribution model. They’ll let us do that for them.