Netflix Quietly Bows Movies in Theaters — Ahead of Streaming

Netflix was the first movie producer to flaunt the traditional theatrical window, contending its original feature films should be made available to subscribers concurrently with any box office exhibition. The streamer’s stance angered exhibitors, resulting in most Netflix movies being boycotted by theatrical chains.

Then came the pandemic and traditional mindsets and business practices gave way to change.

During the pandemic, Netflix quietly entered the theatrical market after negotiating a distribution deal with No. 3 U.S. exhibitor Cinemark. In November and December, respectively, Netflix released Christmas Chronicles 2 and The Prom on Cinemark screens for an exclusive one-week window before they streamed on the Netflix platform.

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“We assume that Netflix negotiated a much lower film rent fee with Cinemark than studios do for a typical theatrical window, and lower than what Universal Pictures will pay exhibitors for its exclusive 17/31-day windows,” Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, wrote in a note.

Netflix, which has become a perennial Oscar contender with its original movies, hasn’t been shy from debuting titles in Los Angeles theaters to assuage industry awards rules. The streamer bowed Klaus, The Two Popes, Marriage Story, The Irishman​, The King and The Laundromat​ on the big screen prior to its platform.

Last year, Netflix acquired the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, in part to debut premiere original movies. American Cinematheque, the nonprofit organization that previously owned the Egyptian, will continue to screen movies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Pachter said Apple TV+ released its original documentary Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry on its platform day-and-date with a theatrical release. He said tickets were available a week ahead of its Cinemark availability, but it was released on Feb. 26 in theaters and on the streaming platform. With no exclusive theatrical window, Pachter said he believes Apple negotiated a smaller film rental fee with Cinemark compared to what Netflix received, and both streamers received less in compensation than studios with longer exclusive theatrical windows.

“While these are clearly exceptional times and exhibitors are willing to negotiate terms they typically would not have in a pre-COVID environment, we think these types of negotiations will continue, and we expect to see more original content from streamers playing in theatres post-pandemic,” Pachter wrote. “We think exhibitors are now more willing to negotiate favorable terms with far more flexible windows than they had in the past, as long as their counterpart is willing to pay.”

Warner Bros. ‘Tenet’ Now Set For Labor Day Weekend Release

Warner Bros. July 27 disclosed the tentative Sept. 3 re-scheduled theatrical release of Christopher Nolan’s espionage thriller Tenet, starring Robert Pattinson and John David Washington. The film is launching next month in 70 international territories.

The movie, along with Disney’s live-action Mulan, has been widely considered the studios and exhibitors’ path back to some normalcy at a domestic box office ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns. Tenet was originally slated for July 15 and then continually delayed due to surges in virus infections across the country. Influx of new content into theaters would then follow with fresh home entertainment titles on digital and packaged media.

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Myriad studio titles previously earmarked for theatrical release have either been postponed to next year, indefinitely or re-directed to premium video-on-demand.

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The Tenet international release slate includes:

  • Aug. 26 — Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
  • Aug. 27 — in Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, Middle East, New Zealand, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Aug. 28 — East Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Vietnam; Sept. 3 in the U.S., Kuwait and Qatar.
  • Sept. 10 — Azerbaijan, CIS Others, Kazakhstan, Russia;
  • Sept. 17 — Cyprus
  • Sept. 18 — Japan.

 

Release dates for Latin America and China remain undisclosed.

AMC Theatres Launching Movie Ticket Subscription Service

NEWS ANALYSIS — AMC Theatres is getting into the movie ticket subscription service just in time for the summer box office — and striking a potentially fatal blow to MoviePass.

The nation’s largest exhibitor June 20 announced that beginning June 26, it is bowing AMC Stubs A-List, which gives subscribers access to screenings and movie reservations three times per week for $19.95 (plus tax) per month.

A-List includes the existing AMC Stubs ($15 annual fee) loyalty program featuring eliminated online ticketing fees, food and beverage discounts. It is good at any AMC location, any format — including Imax at AMC, Dolby Cinema at AMC, RealD 3D, Prime at AMC and BigD. Reservations can be held for a maximum of three movies at any one time in the current week or for future weeks.

Subscribers can watch up to three movies per day, including repeat screenings. The service does not use a special card and is Web and App based. Fathom Events shows, special fan events and some Indian Cinema titles are not included.

“We believe that our current and future loyal guests will be interested in this type of program, as AMC Stubs A-List rewards guests with something that no one else offers … one simple, sustainable price,” Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theatres, said in a statement.

Aron, of course, is referring to MoviePass, the fiscally-challenged $9.95 monthly service that enables subs to one standard theatrical screening per day. With more than 3 million subs, MoviePass has been hemorrhaging money as it lines the pockets of AMC and other exhibitors at unsustainable funding rates.

MoviePass owner Helios and Matheson Analytics’ stock is trading below 35 cents per share. In its most-recent fiscal filing, the company said it was spending an unsustainable $21 million monthly reimbursing exhibitors for tickets used by subscribers.

In response to AMC, MoviePass tweeted: “Heard AMC Theaters jumped on board the movie subscription train. Twice the price for 1/4 the theater network and 60% fewer movies. Thanks for making us look good AMC.”

That was followed up by another tweet: “AMC has repeatedly disparaged our model as a way to discourage our growth because all along they wanted to launch their own, more expensive plan. We want to make movies more accessible, they want more profit.”

To be fair, AMC’s Aron never disparaged MoviePass or the subscription business model. He criticized MoviePass’ unsustainable loss-leading subscription service.

Indeed, news of the AMC service sent HMNY shares down another two cents.