Netflix CEO: Cinemas Are Strangling Movies

Netflix and cinema owners (exhibitors) had a brief war of words this week as the streaming giant came to a ten-picture deal with a small boutique cinema chain for day-and-date theatrical releases of their original features starting with “The Siege of Jadotville”. Films have to score a theatrical release in order to be applicable for awards qualification, with this deal it allows Netflix’s films to do just that.

Speaking to the New Yorker (via The Wrap) at the magazine’s TechFest event on Friday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says that while TV is making major strides in the right direction of adapting for the future, the movie business remains stuck and he thinks theater owners are to blame: “Movie theaters are strangling the movie business. There’s been no innovation in the movie business in the last 50 years.”

He says studios want to experiment with the idea of distributing movies directly to the consumers and to ‘break the oligopoly,’ but doing so would cause an uproar among cinema owners. Theatrical distribution remains a substantial revenue generator to movie studios, but Hastings says it can be more profitable and efficient for films to be distributed in cinemas and on other platforms simultaneously.

NATO president and CEO John Fithian decried that claim on Wednesday, saying: “Simultaneous release, in practice, has reduced both theatrical and home revenues when it has been tried.” Despite NATO’s claims, day-and-date releases have become a lot more common in the industry – especially for smaller films. The day of ubiquitous day-and-date releases is ultimately coming, but exhibitors will fight tooth and nail against it until it does.