After getting tantalizingly close with “Roma,” “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story,” “Mank,” and “The Power of the Dog,” it is no surprise that Netflix was none too happy that Apple TV+ became the first streaming service to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Amidst a sea of changing philosophies that have seen the streaming giant embrace advertising and move to curtail password sharing, Netflix is now reportedly also discussing another significant course correction, this one focused on theatrical windows for its original movies.
According to Bloomberg's Lucas Shaw, during April’s CinemaCon in Las Vegas, Netflix executives met with the owners of movie theater chains about implementing longer windows for a handful of upcoming releases. Shaw notes that the exclusivity period would likely be 45 days and that the most likely candidates to get this new treatment would be the forthcoming sequel to Rian Johnson’s whodunit hit “Knives Out” and the as-of-yet untitled new film from four-time Academy Award winner Alejandro González Iñárritu.
When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.
While Netflix has released films in theaters before, including famously showing “The Irishman” at Broadway’s Belasco Theater, the exclusive windows have generally been no more than a couple of weeks, so a move to even the relatively short month and a half window would be significant.
Also, the streamer has never showcased any of its movies with the two largest chains in the world, AMC and Cineworld Group Plc (which owns Regal Cinemas in the United States and numerous chains around the world). If the world’s largest streaming service hopes to make a splash at the box office, it will need to come to an agreement with both companies.
Like with most of the entertainment industry, Netflix has had a contentious relationship with movie theaters in the past, as the business models between streaming services and cinemas seem diametrically opposed. However, as Netflix struggles to keep up with a quickly shifting streaming landscape and theater chains continue to need more high-profile content to get audiences back in front of the big screens, a more cooperative approach could be a boon for both.
Netflix has recently seen its first quarterly subscriber decline in a decade and ticket sales are still down roughly 40% since before the pandemic for movie theaters, so a deal could benefit both parties. While theaters have more or less accepted 45-day windows as the new industry standard, in partnering with Netflix, they would require guarantees that the streamer would substantially market the films’ theatrical runs.
While Shaw notes that Netflix does not typically do much advertising for individual titles and might be hesitant to spend money telling customers to watch its content somewhere other than its streaming platform, the exposure that the films would get from a longer, exclusive theatrical release could end up increasing the demand once they return home to the service.
Though no deals are yet nearing completion, as Netflix continues to revaluate how it handles key components of its business. it would not be a surprise if this change finally takes effect when “Knives Out 2” is released later this year.
Netflix is a subscription video streaming service that includes on-demand access to 3,000+ movies, 2,000+ TV Shows, and Netflix Originals like Stranger Things, Squid Game, The Crown, Tiger King, and Bridgerton. They are constantly adding new shows and movies. Some of their Academy Award-winning exclusives include Roma, Marriage Story, Mank, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
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