Red Crown Productions
Four major theater chains – AMC, Carmike, Cinemark and Regal – are boycotting the forthcoming Cary Fukunaga warlord movie Beasts of No Nation because Netflix won a bidding war for distribution and plans to release it online the same day it hits theaters. Their issue is that there’s typically a 90-day holding period between theatrical and DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming release to safeguard them against at-home competition, and to look at its modern history, you’d think that window is the fight of their lives. The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) has consistently bartered with, coerced and groveled to the major studios in order to maintain a gap on the calendar that makes them money.
In 2013, when Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos spoke of their future plans for same-day theatrical and streaming releases (which they appear to be mobilizing now), NATO issued this statement:
Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well. … The only business that would be helped by day-and-day release to Netflix is Netflix. If Hollywood did what Sarandos suggests, there wouldn’t be many movies left for Netflix’s customers or for anyone else. It makes absolutely no business sense to accelerate the release of the lowest value in the chain.
The key point of contention being that, naturally, Netflix doesn’t see itself as the lowest value in the chain. They also have momentum. So far, the boldest idea NATO has floated is discounting ticket prices on Tuesdays.
Now with this Beasts of No Nation situation, several major theater chains have decided it best to shoot themselves in the foot. It isn’t exactly like they’ll lose a ton of money – Beasts will most likely be an art house, prestige favorite that won’t bust any blocks – but they are cutting themselves out of the equation in a way that proves that they can be cut out of the equation. For anyone saying that movie theaters are irrelevant, these theater chains are raising their hands, volunteering the evidence that they’re correct.
As for the production company behind Beasts, Netflix has already covered their production costs ($12m for a $6m movie), and any group signing worldwide distribution rights to the streaming site had to recognize the possibility for theaters to bristle and bow out.
It’s also important to note that not all theaters will refuse to play the movie. Those four chains are the only so far who have publicly announced they won’t. Variety reports that The Alamo Drafthouse will, and it’s highly likely that other niche houses will screen Beasts, making any concerns about Oscar eligibility null. It’s easy to imagine at least one theater in Los Angeles will push it across the threshold of eligibility.
(Netflix, who’s been smart about the Emmys, will also no doubt make sure they get screeners into Academy members’ hands even if the movie only sees a few brick and mortar theaters.)
It’s also appropriate that theater chains that are actually actively offering an experience beyond sticky floors and hot dogs are the ones willing to show a movie that will be available to consumers from their couch on the same day.
Movie theaters are magical places. They are refuges and raucous temples and darkened places where hundreds can feel simultaneous emotion. There’s a future for movie houses as long as their are movies, but on this particular issue, the bottom line is that in response to a new player on the board, these four theater chains have chosen to offer their patrons one less option for entertainment. Fortunately, they’ll be able to watch it somewhere else.
Related Topics: Netflix