Earlier this week Netflix announced that they have bought the worldwide distribution rights to “True Detective” director Cary Fukunaga’s new war drama “Beasts of No Nation”, and are going to release it simultaneously on their streaming service and in theaters later this year. Following the news, Variety reported that the nation’s four largest exhibitor chains — AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike — have announced a boycott to Netflix’s new movie. Insiders have also told Variety that Netflix’s course of action is to fight the boycott by exhibiting the movie at roughly 200 arthouse and independent theaters, many of which have already confirmed their commitment to the movie.
There is an ancient rule in place regarding the protection of the value chain in the film industry wherein producers maintain a 90-day delay between the theatrical debut and the home entertainment premiere in order to guarantee that the theaters have a window of exclusivity with the movie and exclusivity is — or used to be — the key to making a profit in the entertainment industry. By releasing day-and-date, Netflix might seriously endanger the exhibitors profit, hence their harsh reaction.
Netflix has pulled it off before with two Oscar nominated documentaries “The Square” and “Virunga” but this is fiction and that is a very different game. Almost a year ago the internet was flooded with news of the streaming company’s first attempt to break the rules when they announced similar plans to debut “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” simultaneously in theaters and online and were also boycotted by the major exhibition chains.
Netflix is pushing the game forward and that’s a great thing. There’s much discussion as to the role of theaters and if they’re still relevant or not but boycotting movies and the taking the power of choice out of the spectator’s hands is not the answer. The theatre is a magical place and no one would ever stop going just because the same movie could be watched at home. Sometimes, you just want to go to the theatre, right? Instead of acting out like this these large chain would profit from investing in revamping their infrastructure and creating new dimensions to the theatre experience because that’s what patrons want – more perks, not less choices.
On the same note, Netflix is on fire and wont be backing down anytime soon: they’ve also acquired all rights to “Jadotville” starred by Jamie Dornan which is set to debut online but might also be released theatrically for Award nominations purposes, they have a deal with Adam Sandler for four films and another with Weinstein Co. and Imax to debut “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” day-and-date in theaters and on Netflix in August. What do you think of the theater chains resistance to change in the way we consume movies?