Earlier today came word in The Wall Street Journal that Netflix has reached a deal with luxury-theater chain iPic Entertainment, which has just 15 U.S. locations, to screen ten movies simultaneously with their release online.
Under the deal, the ten films will screen at iPic theaters in L.A. and New York City, with the possibility of wider release starting with the Jamie Dornan-led war film “The Siege of Jadotville” premiering October 7th and followed by Chris Guest’s new mockumentary “Mascots” on October 13th.
Netflix’s reason for the deal is simple – awards consideration. Under Academy rules, films must run in qualifying theaters for at least seven consecutive days, with multiple showings daily, and the venues must “regularly show new releases.” This would get them there after major U.S. theater chains, including AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment, have categorically boycotted Netflix’s movies.
Within hours of the report the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), the lobbying organization that represents cinema exhibitors, has issued a statement in protest with NATO chief John Fithian saying:
“We all should tread lightly and be mindful that over the years, the film industry’s success is a direct result of a highly successful collaboration between film makers, distributors and exhibitors… Simultaneous release, in practice, has reduced both theatrical and home revenues when it has been tried. Just as Netflix and its customers put a value on exclusivity, theater owners and their customers do too.”
With digital distribution coming to the fore in the past decade or two, fear of losing revenue and the good graces of exhibitors remain the key reasons why there are still no day-and-date theatrical and VOD releases of major blockbusters despite studios efforts to try and change that, or at the very least shorten the window between theatrical and home video release.