Theater Group: Netflix Doesn’t Hurt Exhibitors

Netflix’s adamant strategy to release original feature films concurrent with theatrical distribution is not hurting exhibitor business, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners.

In fact, data from a survey of 1,400 respondents conducted by Ernst & Young found consumers of over-the-top video services are frequent moviegoers – well above non-streamers.

Respondents who watched at least one theatrical release in 2017, also streamed at least one hour of video per week. The ratio increased among avid moviegoers. Indeed, 33% of respondents who watched nine movies in the theater, also streamed at least 15 hours video per week.

“People who consume a lot of content do so across multiple platforms,” NATO spokesperson John Fithian wrote in a recent blog post. “The movie industry is not a zero-sum game.”

Fithian said it could be argued that Netflix undermines broadcast television and transactional VOD markets. Streaming services, Fithian said, can work “hand-in-hand” with exhibitors.

He cited Amazon’s decision to adhere to the tradition 90-day theatrical window for original movies, Manchester by The Sea and The Big Sick– the former generating Amazon industry awards (Best Actor for Casey Affleck and Best Screenplay for director Kenneth Lonergan in Manchester) attention, in addition to domestic box office tallies of $48 million and $43 million, respectively.

Fithian argues Netflix is leaving money on the table bypassing theaters, which have largely boycotted the SVOD pioneer’s movies due to its distribution edict.

Netflix has reversed course this year on original movies Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs– titles the streaming service is heavily lobbying for Oscar contention in 2019 – reportedly at the behest of directors Alfonso Cuarón and Joel and Ethan Coen.

Both titles have received limited exclusive theatrical distribution in an effort to satisfy Academy Awards voters.

NATO cited distributor Neon, which last year reportedly turned down $12 million from Netflix to release I, Tonya in theaters. The film went on to generate Oscar nominations, including Best Supporting Actress win for Alison Janney and sell $30 million in domestic movie tickets.

“The transactional value for film is diminished [by Netflix’s model],” Neon founder Tom Quinn told IndieWire. “It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, you can dip in and out, and if you don’t like a movie, you move on.”

NATO’s Fithian said exhibitors would welcome Netflix into the foldif it respected the theatrical window.

“Filmmakers and movie lovers will appreciate Netflix so much more,” he said.

 

Netflix Reverses Script, Bowing Three Movies Theatrically

The old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” has been taken to heart by Netflix when it comes to theatrical releases.

The streaming video-on-demand behemoth revealed it will debut original movies Roma, from Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity); The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen) and post-apocalyptic thriller Bird Box, from Danish helmer Susanne Bier (Oscar-winning In a Better World) in limited domestic theatrical releases – ahead of streaming.

Netflix, through a longstanding mandate by CCO Ted Sarandos to upend the theatrical window, has always made its original movies available theatrically and streaming at the same time.

The stance has angered the Hollywood status quo, notably some film festivals (Cannes) and exhibitors – the latter refusing to screen Netflix movies also available to its 130 million subscribers.

It has also kept Netflix movies out of Oscar award consideration, whose voters apparently prefer watching new titles in the theater. And Netflix feels it has a trio of possible contenders. Hence the policy the change.

As a result, Roma will bow in theaters in select markets Nov. 21, followed by streaming on Dec. 14. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (featuring Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson and Stephen Root, among others) will hit the box office on Nov. 8 – eight days ahead of streaming. The same time gap for Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson, which hits screens Dec. 13 and SVOD on Dec. 21.

“These upcoming engagements are following the success of our theatrical and Netflix releases of Private Lifeand 22 July,” Scott Stuber, head of original films at Netflix, said in a statement. “There’s been an overwhelming response to all of our films this festival season, including Outlaw King, which will be in theaters and on Netflix next week, and this plan is building on that momentum.”

Stuber said the policy change reflects the Netflix’s desire to attract the best filmmakers and talent.

Indeed, one of Netflix’s first original movies – Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba and Abraham Attah, and directed by Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective”) was ignored by the Academy Awards despite strong critical reviews. A move many saw as an industry rebuke of Netflix’s release strategy.

“Our members benefit from having the best quality films from world class filmmakers and our filmmakers benefit by being able to share their artistry with the largest possible audience in over 190 countries worldwide,” said Stuber.