Netflix: Theatrical Windows Not Consumer Friendly

Netflix Theatrical Windows Not Consumer Friendly

There’s been a lot of talk this year about the point of theatrical windows from the rise, fall and recent rise again of talk of premium VOD; the rise of quality home cinema equipment with 4K HDR TVs and quality home audio systems becoming more ubiquitous; and the original movie output of streaming services improving not just in output but quality (finally) as well.

There’s no question the film industry has changed in recent years too – mid-budget fare continues dying on the vine despite the odd breakthrough hit. In its place more and more are two tiers – tentpole blockbusters you can see pretty much everywhere, and low-budget indie darlings you barely see anywhere – especially if you live outside of select New York or Los Angeles cinephile ghettos.

The box-office haul of tentpoles this year has proven there’s still very much life left in the traditional release model for those films, and a juggernaut like Disney has no plans of abandoning it. What about the rest though?

Netflix’s Head of Content Ted Sarandos, speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communication Conference in New York this week (via Deadline), says the future isn’t in long waits between theatrical release and Blu-ray but rather the true future of filmgoing is all about allowing everyone the same ability to access – and not just the rich, the time rich and/or those with easy access:

“They [exhibitors] have disconnected people from movies in a way. I don’t think it’s very consumer-friendly that consumers who don’t happen to live near a theater are waiting six months, eight months to see a movie. I don’t disagree that going to the theater to see a movie is a great experience. I don’t think emotionally it’s a different experience than seeing a movie on Netflix. It is a different physical experience for sure.”

So what about the filmmakers who say that for a film to be considered a true feature film, it should be released in the cinema? Sarandos thinks that’s more of a cultural issue than anything else: “I think that’s a way of saying, ‘I want my film to be in the culture. I want people to talk about my movie in line at Starbucks.'”

Sarandos adds Netflix is the only place you should look to do that, citing their successful rom-com film releases over the summer: “Eighty million people watched one or more of those films [during the summer]. Being able to offer this collective audience and being able tap into that in a big way, at scale, is what differentiates us.”

Sarandos then went on to reveal their original film, the Kurt Russell as Santa Claus movie “The Christmas Chronicles,” earned a massive 20 million streams in its first week on Netflix with Russell saying it was the most feedback he had ever had of any movie he had ever done in his six decades in show business.