North American Theater Owners president and CEO John Fithian, representing exhibitors at the Toronto Film Festival this week, has urged Netflix to follow the lead of rival Amazon and show their movies at the local multiplex.
Talking with THR, Fithian says: “Our model can work for their movies too. But if you want to play theatrically, come play theatrically. There’s a model that works, and it works for Fox, Amazon and all these companies, because a theatrical movie is different.”
Then Fithian stipulates a condition on that invitation: “It has to be a substantive commitment to theatrical, not just a marketing play. It’s not just a little dip into theatrical. You have to give [a movie] a chance to work.”
Netflix is aggressively embracing A-list directors to make movies for its streaming service at the moment and has previously expressed a desire to have their films released in cinemas.
However, to date, they have only screened their potential awards films such as “Mudbound” on a handful of screens mostly due to exhibitors being rigid about the theatrical movie window of at least three months between films screening at the multiplex and arriving on a home video platform.
On the one hand a theatrical release offers the advantage of perceived prestige, awards consideration and potential box-office success should a film go theatrical. On the other, there’s the disadvantage of suddenly more additional costs of millions in marketing and distribution, far more complicated deal making when it comes to doing anything with their films, and potentially bad word of mouth during the theatrical run.
There’s also the fact that their user base is worldwide, meaning films would be delayed by many months so that one or a handful of countries can get a theatrical run which could very well flop.
Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” which Netflix is releasing both in a small handful of cinemas and on its streaming service simultaneously, was the toast of the recent Venice Film Festival and won its top honor. It and Bradly Cooper’s “A Star is Born” have seemingly emerged as the two early favorites to nab a Best Picture Oscar.