When the theater trade group National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) last month called out Netflix to release its original movies in theaters, Wall Street saw the gesture as win-win for the streaming behemoth and exhibitors.
Specifically, following Netflix’s underwhelming first quarter that saw the company lose 200,000 subscribers globally, and project a further decline of 2 million subs worldwide in the current second quarter, ending June 30, Mike Hickey, analyst with venture capital firm Benchmark, contends the streamer could debut from 10-to-12 original movies a year in theaters — and in the process generate incremental revenue and publicity.
Netflix heretofore has offered to release select movie in theaters concurrent with global streaming access — a stance that has seen exhibitors boycott previous Netflix movie releases. With theaters looking to lure moviegoers with content beyond studio superheroes, Netflix, which has produced original movie hits Red Notice, Don’t Look Up, The Adam Project, and Bird Box, among others, could be a rich source for content, according to Benchmark’s Matthew Harrigan.
Indeed, with the Apple TV+ Best Picture Oscar win for CODA, analysts suggest the momentum could enable Netflix to follow Apple and Amazon Prime Video’s lead launching original movies in an abbreviated theatrical window.
“Given Netflix’s big data expertise, it is likely to test various approaches on release windows, splits, and share of marketing relative to exhibitors in narrow geographic markets,” Harrigan wrote in a note. The analyst believes that Hollywood’s foray into day-and-date theatrical releases with a streaming video component (i.e., Warner Bros. Pictures/HBO Max in 2021), has “gone by the wayside.”
Netflix has made no comment about possibly altering its ubiquitous distribution strategy.