‘Beasts of No Nation’ Won’t Debut in Major Theaters Due to Netflix Deal
It was only a matter of time before we began to see the effects of Netflix’s foray into the film distribution business. We previously assumed that some major theater chains would refuse to show films which premiere simultaneously on the streaming service, but today brings confirmation of those assumptions, as some of the top theater chains have vowed not to screen Beasts of No Nation at their venues due to Netflix’s release plan.
Yesterday it was reported that Netflix made a pretty impressive acquisition, picking up distribution rights for Beasts of No Nation, the upcoming African war drama from acclaimed director Cary Fukunaga. That deal might very well generate some awards season buzz for the streaming service, which only recently entered the film distribution fray.
Netflix plans to premiere the film in theaters and on its streaming service simultaneously, but that plan isn’t sitting right with several theater chains. Variety reports that some of the nation’s biggest chains—AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike—are refusing to debut the film, believing that the simultaneous streaming release will interfere with their box office earnings.
Theater chains already refused to screen the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel, on which Netflix partnered with The Weinstein Company and IMAX for a limited release. In addition, most chains decline to screen films which have a day-and-date VOD release, or which don’t allow an adequate window between theatrical and VOD premieres.
Although this disappointing move was expected, many art house theaters and independent chains will still show Beasts of No Nation regardless of the Netflix plan. In a statement to Variety, Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League revealed that he’s “agnostic” to these deals, and added that he programs the films he wants to program at his theaters, “regardless of the release strategy.” League, who chose to screen last year’s Snowpiercer at his theaters even though it was already available on VOD, went on to describe movie theaters as simply another viewing option:
I don’t look at myself as a competitor to Netflix. I think that argument is a little bit of a red herring. I watch a lot of movies at home, but there comes a time where I want to get out of the house. I look at cinemas as one of those options that compete with restaurants or baseball games or all of those things I can’t do in my living room.
Time (and box office earnings) will tell if the major chains are making a mistake by not releasing Netflix’s upcoming films, but until then, take comfort in knowing that you will get to see these movies—just not at a huge theater chain. That may not be an issue for some, but for those who live in smaller towns with limited access to indie theaters, it’s a letdown. For the rest of us, we’d probably prefer to visit our local independent theaters anyway.