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Theater Chains Pout, Boycott Netflix's New Movie To Protect Antiquated Release Windows

from the taking-my-ball-and-go-home dept

As part of its continued foray into film and more flexible release windows, Netflix this week announced it had acquired the Cary Fukunaga film “Beasts of No Nation.” Based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala, the movie stars Idris Elba and examines the impact of civil war on an unnamed West African country. Like the company’s acquired sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” Netflix is using the opportunity to kick down the doors of antiquated release windows, pushing the film to theaters the same day it will be available on Netflix instant streaming.

Given this would challenge the aging structure of the film industry, you’ll probably not be surprised to learn that the primary response to Netflix’s move has been of the hissy fit variety. That home video viewing will kill theaters has been the refrain of theater owners for decades now.

So, when Netflix announced it would be offering its Crouching Tiger sequel in IMAX on the same day as streaming availability, AMC, Regal and Cinemark — which, combined, run 247 of the 400 IMAX theaters in North America — unsurprisingly announced they’d be boycotting the movie this summer. Similarly, those same chains have joined forces to boycott Netflix’s release of “Beasts of No Nation,” insisting they need to do so to protect the 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release.

That inflexibility has opened the door to folks like Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League, who somehow grasps the immeasurably complicated idea that sometimes people like going out to the movies, and sometimes they like staying home. League shot down the idea that tinkering with release windows was a death knell for theater owners:

“I?m agnostic about this sort of thing,? said Tim League, the company?s CEO and founder. ?I look at films I want to play and I play them regardless of the release strategy.” League noted that Alamo Drafthouse had success showing ?Snowpiercer,? even though that science-fiction adventure debuted last summer on-demand while it was still in theaters.

“I don?t look at myself as a competitor to Netflix,? said League. ?I think that argument is a little bit of a red herring. I watch a lot of movies at home, but there comes a time where I want to get out of the house. I look at cinemas as one of those options that compete with restaurants or baseball games or all of those things I can?t do in my living room.”

Flexibly focusing on the consumer instead of crossing your arms and making a pouty face when inevitable industry evolution occurs? Ridiculous! Somebody clearly forgot to inform League that change is always bad, and pouting like a petulant child is the only effective and profitable path forward when history and technology threaten to rattle the status quo.

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Companies: alamo draft house, amc, cinemark, imax, netflix, regal

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Comments on “Theater Chains Pout, Boycott Netflix's New Movie To Protect Antiquated Release Windows”

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61 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Run that by me again?

So Netflix is planning on showing the films at the same time as they’re shown in theaters.

The theaters claim that home viewing hurts their profits.

So in response, theater owners refuse to show the films at all, making it so anyone who wants to watch them will have to watch them at home, via Netflix.

Brilliant.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Run that by me again?

Meanwhile, some cinemas have just announced a marathon screening of all the main Marvel movies back-to-back in the run-up to the new Avengers movie. Films that every single one of their target audience will not only have seen multiple times, but will own DVDs or Blu -Rays of every title. No whining about lost profits there…

So, they’re starting to get it, but only when a major studio tells them how to run their business.

Violynne (profile) says:

I think people need to read the statement for what it really says:

“As theater owners, we can’t dare risk upsetting the MPAA and our movie distributors, who hate, and we mean hate, Netflix with a passion. Since Netflix wants to contend for next year’s Oscar awards, we have no choice but to deny Netflix permission to our theaters. Unfortunately, this means we lose revenue, but the MPAA couldn’t care less. Enjoy the movie in the comfort of your own home. PS: we do this to indie movie makers too, because the MPAA hates them as well.”

Now, what makes more sense: theaters purposely killing a revenue stream or appeasing the man-devil called “Dodd”?

As one who used to work in a theater, the atrocious tactics done by the MPAA and movie distributors is guaranteed to close theaters as the model did with Blockbuster.

Don’t take my word for it. Do a search on how many theaters (including the one I used to work at) closed over the past 10 years alone.

Though, a word of caution: this may prompt you to go out and buy a big screen TV to make up the loss of the soon-to-be-closed big screens in theaters.
😉

DB (profile) says:

The theaters have quite a bit of history to back them up.

Look at how football was destroyed once it was shown on TV. Ticket prices went to zero (approximately, the average for a ‘cheap seat’ is only $84), and the parking lots could only charge $1 (approximate, actual cost is $75 in Dallas).

The same with other sports. The miniscule broadcast revenue left the team owners destitute. Pretty much only the parents of the players show up at games.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

if i’m not mistaken, pro sports have gotten to the point where they basically DON’T CARE if they have fans in the stands, Because they get SO MUCH money from tee vee contracts that they -essentially- do NOTHING for…

AND it is so expensive to go to sporting events, it is mostly corporate piggies in skyboxes who write off all that expense (that YOU AND I PAY FOR in our increased taxes, since the fat cats get tax deductions for such ‘expenses’…)

fans ? ? ? yuck, they have to be served, and they are messy, and you have to hire people to provide stuff for them, and we actually have to do something other than sit back in our skybox and count our teevee monies…
who wants that ? ? ?

and while you are at it, stupid rubes, buy us another half billion dollar stadium or we’ll leave town…

(which we probably will anyway… there is a (greedy) reason why the NFL changed its rules so that there can NEVER be another Green Bay situation, they HATE that shit…)

Anonymous Coward says:

Netflix will continue to gain ground under these circumstances. Should this method continue the dinosaurs that control media release will hasten their demise; not a bad thing in my opinion.

Up until sue’em there were times I’d go to Blockbuster and spend $30 in movie rentals. After sue’em all, I spent nothing there. I quit going.

Before that, I’d already quit going to the theater. When you as a customer walk away feeling ripped off more often than feeling like it was all worth it, you have a product problem. In the 5 years I have spent nothing going to the theater because I no longer go. The theater experience is no longer an attraction but rather one of distaste.

Today, I want none of my money going to either the RIAA nor the MPAA. I’ve been on boycott ever since the start of sue’em all and I am quite happy to continue this. I see nothing here that changes that opinion but rather boosts it as the correct thing to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

You can go bankrupt for ideals – “We will honor the 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release!” – or you can go bankrupt through an odd business plan – “Who else will allow you to sit in their buildings with a 64 oz. sugar drink and a five gallon bucket of grease?” – but in the end, you’ll still be selling used cars and eating cat food and wondering what the hell went wrong.

andyroo says:

Re: Re: Are policies on re-releases changing too?

Way under £100 for a decent projector with a 160″ screen is going to encourage more people to watch at home rather than at the cinema, but there are still those that just use the cinema as a night out, dinner then movie then out for a few drinks. But if they are not going to be showing the big movies I suspect that more and more people are going to be buying those projectors and forgoing the theatres as a boycott until they stop treating the consumer so badly.

Also I am sure this must be illegal, and netflix could sue the MPAA for encouraging them to not allow a legitimate company to have their movies in cinemas. Maybe time for a clean out of the monopoly they have.Or maybe time for Netflix to release something that is epic and everyone wants to see and help the smaller cinemas to make a bit more money than those that do not show it.Damn netflix could do some creative thinking and rent stadiums and charge less providing an open air experience and a completely new experience, it would need a lot of thought and planning for seating but they could have 20 000 people for each showing and have three showings a day for a week. Damn they could make it an immersive experience and have three or four screens around the field and sell a cheap picnic to each person that buys a ticket.

come on netflix think about this situation carefully and do something that rocks the world of cinema and the Mpaa to its roots with the threat of them losing billions a year by applying for a licence for the idea and preventing Hollywood from doing the same.

Aaron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Are policies on re-releases changing too?

Also I am sure this must be illegal, and netflix could sue the MPAA for encouraging them to not allow a legitimate company to have their movies in cinemas.

Theaters are owned by private companies, and it is perfectly legal for them to choose what they do and don’t want to show. Plus, courts cannot compel theaters to show speech they don’t wish to support – that’s massively unconstitutional.

Andy says:

Honestly, I’ve not been to the cinema for 10 years.

I hate the experience, the noise of other people, the fact I can’t pause it if I need the loo, and the cost is ridiculous, but, there is the odd film or two that I would pay extra to watch at home as soon as it’s released rather than waiting for it to come onto sky (insert generic cable/USA equivalent here) included in whatever package I already pay for.

Outdated / antiquated is an accurate reflection of the cinema experience

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’ve gone one further — in the past 15 years, I’ve only seen 3 films in the theatre (kind of like MacDonald’s — after a while you think “It couldn’t really have been THAT bad, could it?”) and I’ve been off cable for 10. I watch my video entertainment via streaming video or DVDs from the library. And the funny thing is, I still watch too much TV/movies.

Pre-programmed recorded entertainment is a dying beast. There are better alternatives out there, and only inertia is preventing the masses from switching at this point.

limbodog (profile) says:

Looking back to 1948

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Paramount_Pictures,_Inc.

The Paramount Decree made it illegal for movie production companies to also own theaters because they were giving undue preference to their own films, and other companies couldn’t get theirs shown.

When movie theaters were still booming, this was a big deal.

I think we can all agree that’s no longer the case. Movie theaters struggle to survive, having had their breakfast repeatedly consumed by disruptive technologies. (remember when television was disruptive to more than dinner?)

I’d actually like to see this change. I think it’s high time we allow production companies to own theaters again, even if they plan to exclusively show their own movies. They no longer have anything even close to a monopoly. Instead, they have to produce lowest-common-denominator films in order to assure they get their film shown at all.

I like to think that a production company with it’s own theater today could guarantee that their films would get *some* screen time, even if they weren’t meant to appeal to your average reality tv viewer.

It would also mean Netflix wouldn’t have to be vulnerable to a boycott like the one above.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Looking back to 1948

Who cares who owns movie theatres when the companies that own the movie studios also own all the television and cable channels.

But allowing the studios to own the theatres is a bad idea. It would make it impossible for non-studio movies to get shown. As it is, the contracts they put theatre owners under to show digital films still gives them lots of control over the theatres.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Looking back to 1948

“They appear to have a monopoly on distribution of major studio films.”

Erm, you do realise that the MPAA is simply the industry body which represents the major studios? Right? Who do you think should be distributing major studio films other than the very same studios who are members of the MPAA?

I agree that independents should get a better chance of distribution and a better foothold into mainstream cinemas, and the collusion that’s clearly happening removed. But, the way you worded it is rather nonsensical.

Anonymous Coward says:

There must to be a better way to do this.

We’ve seen this before, and it’s past time we started labeling it for what it is. This is just the movie industry manufacturing propaganda again. At some point, they will conveniently forget any details of this event that would make them look stupid and use the reported profits to show how Netflix and the internet are hurting their business. Then someone will have to point out HOW they shot themselves in the foot to get those numbers, the matter will be dropped, and we wait until the industry tries again…lather, rinse, repeat. They literally do NOTHING and we’re forced to run in circles.

Anonymous Coward says:

An old theater was rebuilt and recently had Indiana JonesThe Lost Ark on the screen. The theater was fairly full. It was completely classic style that included a 10 minute intermission. At the end, everyone stood up and clapped. The screen quality was decent but the sound was kinda crappy but everyone had a great time. They had a nearly full theater for a movie that has been out for years.

Keroberos (profile) says:

Option A: Get some of the revenue from a simultaneous release of these movies.

Option B: Throw a fit and get nothing.

How does option B make any kind of valid business sense?

For people who want to see movies in a theater, I highly doubt the availability of a movie for streaming (or on DVD for that matter) is going to stop them from going to the theater.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“How does option B make any kind of valid business sense?”

The only way I can think of it making sense is to ensure that it doesn’t become a successful distribution method and they keep windows on major releases.

Put it this way – if these films are successful, it would prove that windowing is actually ineffective. Things are already creeping that way to some degree, albeit slowly (The Interview being a great example of a film that was successful via home releases – though its situation was unique enough not to be a reliable model). If one of these films managed to top that week’s box office charts, it would make the studios consider putting more of their films out on a day and date basis.

By stopping the films from showing in enough cinemas to make an impact on the box office charts, they avoid a successful experiment. If it’s successful in smaller theatres, they can say “yeah, but it wouldn’t work in multiplexes). If the films fail, they can say “well, it’s lucky we didn’t waste screen space on those flops”. In the meantime, they’ll be hoping that Netflix loses money and decides not to screen their next releases theatrically.

It’s all delusion, of course, and they’re seriously in trouble if the only reason people do visit their premises is because they literally have no other choice. But, like the last business model disrupted by Netflix (home video rental), there will be a lot of screaming, lying and whining before they’re forced to adapt or die. What’s sad is that this is a business that’s regularly been disrupted over the last century, but fails to learn from its own history on the next occasion.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Order is Wrong

Sometimes it is seeing a film via the home video release that makes me want to see the film, particularly if it was produced to make use of particular bells and whistles that theaters use to keep relevant. I think:

“Hey, I wish I saw Cave of Dreamers on the big screen in 3D.”
“Yeah, that transition to the Hunger Games arena would have been more dramatic with a switch to the IMAX format, even on smaller IMAX screens.”
“The opening to the Half Blood Prince would have been really great in 3D.”
“Oh, now I see why I should have seen Gravity on the biggest screen I could find.”

Particularly with big hits, big series, anything which maintained a reputation, they could do a “you missed the effects” re-release hitting just the most highly equipped theaters, fill in those theaters when everyone is focused on award-contenders or in that hollow in January.

But, no. The industry gets the order wrong and looses all that money from me.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: The Order is Wrong

I completely agree.
I remember watching “How to Train Your Dragon” on DVD and thinking “That would look great in 3D”… but by that time, it was way too late to see it in a 3D theater. Sure, I could buy a 3D TV and 3D player and 3D disc, but it’s sometimes easier to just take a trip to the movie theater.

A trip to the theater could then include stopping for dinner or ice cream, which helps the local businesses. Why couldn’t the theater partner with the businesses to help each other? For example, why not offer a “dinner and movie” pack?
However, I’d bet that offering free or discounted tickets would be against the MPAA’s rules of charging full price for a ticket.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

I hope for an enterpriser to bring back the theater experience.

The Broadway Theater in Oakland only shows classics and cult films, but they do so in the Golden Age tradition, with news reels, a serial and a Warner Bros cartoon. There were drawings and an organist who would score the processions, and in the case of silent films, the feature itself.

That was cause to go to the theater. These days we’re inundated with (often non-film-related) commercials from the box office all the way to the intermission. (I miss curtains, dammit!)

I read an Imponderables article once about the business budget breakdown of a movie theater (circa, early 80s) which pointed out that most of the ticket price goes to the studio, and the remaining pennies cover rent and overhead. All profits of a movie theater come from concessions, which is why a small popcorn costs more than a super-sized McDonald’s meal.

Since then, the studios have been taking more and more of the ticket, so the theaters have been pushed into either higher concession profits or other more creative means to turn a buck. Here in California, this means advertising from the box office to…yeah that.

I don’t go to the movies, generally, because in contrast to watching a film at home, the experience is gross and nauseating.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: I hope for an enterpriser to bring back the theater experience.

In my state, there there is an increasing number of small theaters that do exactly this: provide an excellent theater experience. These theaters never show first-run movies (they tend to track about a year behind theatrical releases), but they always sell out. That’s something that rarely happens in the major theater chains.

Timothy Leary (profile) says:

Free Market

I thought we lived in a capitalist country with a free market, supply and demand, etc. If people want to go to the movie they can, if they would rather stay home and watch it, that’s their choice. To the victor goes the spoils. Me, I would rather spend $1.50 to watch a movie in the comfort of my home, than $50.00 at the movie theater!If the movie theater chains are so upset, either improve their product, or reduce their prices. It’s ridiculous paying $4.50 for a medium soda, $5.00 for a small box of candy, or $4 – 6.00 for popcorn. If Netflix’s business model is cutting into your market share, think outside the box and improve your business model (i.e., raffle off 4 free tickets a day for a future premium movie or something similar that will attract return clients). You could give discounted tickets for less desired seats or you can sit on your a** and cry, or pay lawyers to fight a battle in Court and increase your expenses! Think, decide, and act!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Free Market

While I agree with your sentiment (and approve of your name!):

“It’s ridiculous paying $4.50 for a medium soda, $5.00 for a small box of candy, or $4 – 6.00 for popcorn.”

The reason they do this is that they make next to nothing from the ticket you buy for the movie itself – almost all of that goes straight to the studios. For a long time, that’s been the way they’ve kept the doors open.

Now, I thoroughly agree that they need to think outside of the box and need to change the way they do business. But, I would disagree that it needs to be gimmicks. What I always suggest is either make a big deal of what they’re actually selling (the theatrical experience) and ensure that it’s worth paying a premium, and/or take advantage of impulse and upselling tactics (for example, have DVDs, soundtracks and other merchandise in the lobby for people to buy just after seeing the movie; partner with online retailers to get a cut on deals people can get with proof of cinema purchase, etc.). Some cinemas, especially in the UK have also partnered with other kinds of content providers, leading to successful showings of sports events, opera, ballet and stage live feeds, even TV premieres/finales. There must be plenty of niches and markets that a canny local manager can organise to attract people.

But, all that takes imagination and effort, rather than whining that pirates and Netflix are disrupting the way they used to do make big business in 1993…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Free Market

“The reason they do this is that they make next to nothing from the ticket you buy for the movie itself – almost all of that goes straight to the studios.”

True, but completely not relevant. Whatever the cause, going to the movies is ridiculously overpriced, and the prices for concessions is outrageous (and is one of the reasons why you don’t see lines at the concession stands very often).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Free Market

“True, but completely not relevant.”

No, it’s completely relevant if you’re going to criticise the way things are run. You need to make sure you’re pointing your finger at the correct target.

Now, we can agree that there’s other ways that cinemas should be able to make money other than ramping prices up on concessions and that they should be seriously looking at why. But, you have to address the reason why they’re doing this in the first place – and that reason is because they have to agree to give most of their revenue from ticket prices to the studios before they’re allowed to rent a print.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Free Market

@ Timothy Leary we live in a capitalist country but it doesn’t have a free market at all, unless your definition of choice is “Take it or leave it.”

Anti-competitive practices abound, and the above article is but one example. Breaking up monopolies and ending anti-competitive practices is the best possible solution. This will result in a more free market.

Now before you say, “But regulations and government are bad,” let me point out that incumbents, if left to themselves, aren’t going to change their ways until they become unprofitable. That is not how a free (or mostly free) market works. Again, “Take it or leave it” is not a choice and it’s certainly not freedom.

Theaters ought to be allowed to choose which movies to show or not, end of discussion. But as we’ve pointed out, they’re not. The theaters themselves are probably not the problem, it may well be the threat of having major new releases not provided to them that’s causing this.

Now imagine a world in which they can show what they want, when they want. “Beasts of No Nation” and other Netflix-provided movies would no doubt be showing there. There aren’t a lot of independent theaters around, are there?

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