'The Irishman' Ban Once Again Shows Hollywood's Disdain For Netflix is Stupid & Counterproductive

from the what-exactly-are-you-doing-here dept

For years Hollywood has seen Netflix as a mortal enemy because of the company’s interest in disrupting the entertainment industry. Hollywood has been particularly vocal about how Netflix is “destroying” the traditional, sticky-floor, brick and mortar theater business because it wants to modernize antiquated release window rules from a bygone era. For example, Netflix content was banned from Cannes last year largely because the company wouldn’t adhere to France’s absurd cultural exception law that requires a 36-month delay between theatrical release and streaming availability.

Hollywood theater chains’ disdain for Netflix bubbled up again this month, with the news that Netflix’s latest exclusive, the new Martin Scorsese film “The Irishman,” would be banned from being shown at a number of major theater chains. Apparently this was intended as some kind of “punishment” for Netflix, though the company quickly spun the narrative on its head. Like “Roma,” “The Irishman” needs at least some major theater time to be considered for Oscar contention, so Netflix has decided to screen the film at the Shubert Organization?s historic Belasco Theatre on Broadway.

It’s the first time a traditional film has been shown there in the theater’s 112 year history, drawing more public attention to the film’s release:

“The unusual arrangement ? hailed by the preservation-minded Scorsese as a way to showcase his film in the type of ornate theater in which New Yorkers could once routinely view films ? will be the first film screening ever in the Belasco?s 112-year history (the theater was an NBC studio for several years in the early 1950s). Netflix will provide what it describes as state-of-the-art equipment for the screenings.”

The film (featuring Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro, and Al Pacino in a purported return to bygone efforts) will be shown at the theater through the month of November, before it arrives on Netflix November 27. Brick and mortar theaters apparently think they’re somehow stopping Netflix from disrupting the industry, but it’s hard to see how that’s actually going to be successful. Netflix simply turned the snub into a new way to promote the film, and the industry loses any revenue from airing a film that many fans of older Scorsese mob films are going to want to see. It’s all a sort of incompetent seppuku.

The biggest issue? The brick and mortar theater worry that Netflix will “kill theaters” has never been proven by any substantive data. Last year a study indicated that Netflix certainly isn’t killing movie theaters. In fact, EY?s Quantitative Economics and Statistics group (funded by the National Association of Theater Owners) found that consumers who visited theaters nine times or more in the last 12 months consumed more streaming content than consumers who visited a movie theater only once or twice over the past year:

“The message here is that there?s not a war between streaming and theatrical,? said Phil Contrino, director of media and research at NATO. ?People who love content are watching it across platforms and all platforms have place in consumers? minds.”

In other words, the claims that Netflix keeps people at home and out of theaters isn’t true, yet it’s the cornerstone of all of these efforts. Much in the way that pirates buy more programming on all platforms than other users, users who stream a lot still like to go to the theater because they really enjoy movies. Streaming and theaters can have a synergistic relationship where everybody benefits, yet instead we get whatever this is.

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Companies: belasco, nato, netflix

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Comments on “'The Irishman' Ban Once Again Shows Hollywood's Disdain For Netflix is Stupid & Counterproductive”

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nerdrage (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah this is good old fashioned capitalism. Movie theaters and streaming have different capitalistic business models, and that results in a demand for different products to be made and sold via these different distribution methods.

Movie theaters have a lot of burdensome brick & mortar overhead: rent, taxes, insurance, power, payroll for people to take tickets and clean theaters. They have to maximize each movie showing and fill theaters to the max, and that’s best accomplished with the most mass of mass market entertainment, the big-budget franchise blockbuster. This is especially imperative when making money globally. Big brands are how you overcome the problem of a world filled with different tastes. Create entertainment big and broad enough, and it appeals to all tastes.

Streaming is a much leaner and meaner business model. Set up shop on the internet and get your content out to the world. No need for much in the way of overhead other than a few offices with a handful of employees for a global business. This leanness is the only reason why Netflix can fund billions in content while charging peanuts, which in turn allows them to fund a far wider range of content to compensate for Netflix’s biggest problem, that they have no big global brands and must do something very difficult: build them from scratch. And also depend on niche tastes to a large extent. Making content for niche tastes is far less efficient than churning out big mass market franchise content.

The movie theater business model gets you Avengers: Endgame; the streaming business model gets you Stranger Things but also everything from Adam Sandler schlock to The Crown to Scorsese flicks and a lot of foreign-language content too.

Now that Disney is getting into streaming, with the big brands Netflix lacks, they might change the equation all over again but that’s still to be seen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

There is somewhat of a conflict between theatres and the Hollywood studios. The studios want massive global audiences, while the cinema wants to fill its seats from the local population. The latest block buster is of no use to a theatre if it does not appeal to the local audience, while an art house film may be just the ticket if it fills the seats every night for a weeks run.

By the way, the problem Netflix is having in getting into Cinemas comes not from the Cinemas directly, but rather the studios leaning on them because they do not like the competition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, I do not see Netflix practising Luddism, by trying to destroy the new, while Hollywood has a history of doing that. When they were fighting the video tape, they did not have much competition in producing content, now they are fighting the Internet they have a lot of competition, from individuals with a cell phone through to the likes of Netflix.

nerdrage (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You mean theaters? They’ve already adapted to the competition posed by streaming, by being the place where you see the big budget eye candy that really needs the big screen and booming sound system for the full effect. That means Avatar, not The Irishman.

Further afield, theaters could continue this trajectory to offer stuff you simply can’t get from Netflix at home because theaters can afford the technology and by the time it percolates down to the home level, the theaters have new tech to offer.

I’m thinking, VR is the next step here. One day, Avatar in theaters will mean riding a pterodactyl through the jungles of Pandora while Avatar on Disney+ is a more traditional story-based series with characters and all that. And eventually there will be home VR tech so you can ride pterodactyls at home, by which time the theaters better have invented something else…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You mean theaters?

No I mean the film industry based on the studios, who have a massive level of control over the well known cinema chains. It is those who built their business model on distributing their product via theatres who have objected to very advance that changes how their product can be distributed that practice Luddism, and hate the Internet because it allows content production and distribution outside their control, and without them being able to extract their tribute.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"That means Avatar, not The Irishman."

This kind of binary thinking is part of the problem. Not everybody like superhero movies, and not everybody wants mindless entertainment from their cinema. Some people want to see actual cinema rather than stripped down theme park rides. You might not want to see The Irishman on the big screen, but the #1 movie in the US a few weeks ago was Downton Abbey, not a superhero movie. There’s an audience out there, possibly a large one, who are being denied.

If you’re catering to one audience and one audience alone, you’re in trouble as soon as that audience tires. Superhero movie fatigue is already a thing, and realistically it’s only Marvel who’s not had a major flop in the genre. If they mis-step, or people decide they’re just tired of the movies during the next phase of releases, you’ve already lost the mid-to-low budget movies that used to fill the rosters. The people who used to visit the cinemas to see such movies are being told their business is not welcome and to stay at home, so there’s nothing to prop up an expensive failure.

Cinemas used to thrive by offering a wide range of movies, now they’re putting all their eggs in one basket. Hopefully they won’t find out the hard way why that saying exists.

"One day, Avatar in theaters will mean riding a pterodactyl through the jungles of Pandora"

There’s already theme parks for that. Literally, Universal Studios has such a ride. While theme parks can be fun, they’re not for everybody.

anonymouse says:

Re: Re: Re:

"You mean theaters? They’ve already adapted to the competition posed by streaming, by being the place where you see the big budget eye candy that really needs the big screen and booming sound system for the full effect."

That would be true except that theatre chains have mostly gone to the smaller screens in smaller rooms with ear blasting sound systems. The Big theatres, like the drive ins before them, are now few and far between. IMAX though few films do the format justice.

As an aside – I wonder when health and safety bothered to check those things out and jailed the idiots damaging peoples hearing?

Anonymous Coward says:

Hey Hollywood...

It’s not Netflix destroying the brick and mortar theater industry. It’s the 75" (or larger) LED TV industry.

Well, maybe both, but if Netflix didn’t exist, there would be plenty of other streaming content providers to fill the gap. Whereas if we were still watching TV at 480p on 19" TV sets, theaters would have much more to offer in the market.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

"Apparently this was intended as some kind of "punishment" for Netflix"

Which, of course, makes zero sense. Netflix’s business model is not dependant on theatrical box office. The worst that could happen is that the film is released wide and flops, which will cost them money in theatres but they make money on subscriptions later. If they succeed, that’s good marketing for the streaming service but it doesn’t make a massive difference to the bottom line.

What’s really stupid is that the cinemas share in this success or failure. If the film flops, Netflix might reconsider showing films theatrically and the argument’s over. The cinemas can just show other movies that people do go to see. If it succeeds, then the cinema has merely added a studio that can supply them with profitable movies – by definition, if people are going to see The Irishman in cinemas, they’re not staying home and their fears are for nought.

But, this way? Well, you’ve just guaranteed that people are spending whichever night they decide to watch The Irishman in their homes instead of the cinema, since you give them no other option. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy… What’s really crazy is that the industry’s has this argument before many times, and every time their fears have been proven to be for nothing.

nerdrage (profile) says:

business as usual

Everyone is just acting in their self-interest in this scenario. Some are more rational than others; some are fully delusional but apparently their self-interest is based on perpetuating a delusion.

Scorsese wants to make the movies he wants to make, and get an audience for them. His rational approach was to do a deal with Netflix.

Netflix is going to be battling some heavyweights in streaming soon. They need to bulk up a huge range of content to appeal to everyone (they need to appeal to a far wider audience than movie theaters do). This includes everything from Adam Sandler schlock to Scorsese art movies. Netflix is being rational in establishing a good working relationship with a legendary director.

Movie theaters may not be truly threatened by Netflix’s willingness to fund The Irishman – the reason Scorsese had to do a deal with Netflix is because Paramount wouldn’t fund the movie, knowing it wouldn’t make the money back at theaters, becuase the audience doesn’t go to theaters for movies like that anymore. But they have no reason to make life easier for Netflix, so they are acting in their rational self-interest to throw up barriers.

Just to add them to the discussions, Oscars or Cannes also have no loyalty to Netflix. They have powerful constituents among theatre owners and will fall in line with their wishes, even as the awards-worthy movies increasingly are funded by streamers, who have more motive to fund arty movies for their own purposes, while theaters get rich from Disney comic book flicks.

The rational parties who are not delusional are filmmakers like Scorsese, and the streaming services. Theaters and the awards ceremony people are acting in their rational self-interest but their understanding of what their interest is, is based on a delusion that movie theaters have anything to do anymore with storytelling or art.

Scorsese was right on the money to say that theaters just show amusement park style movies. Audiences go to theaters for sensory overload and eye candy, basically the same appeal as amusement parks and video games. Theaters will keep going in that direction and diverge more and more from storytelling and "art." We’ll get the storytelling and art at home on streaming, along with a plethora of other things. Streaming is all about range; movie theatres offer a narrow experience having to do with zap pow and boom.

Joseph Cortez says:


I keep here this thing about companies being "disrupted." That is not the case at all. Having worked in retail, the auto industry, having to pay for internet. It is not disruption. If these big companies want my money so much, how about some basic customer service and give me what I want for money; with out the added BS(made up fees). If the big corporations are so worried, perhaps they should stop think about the short term and start thinking about the long term? Yes I know that was a crazy question. ???? I’m just saying come sense and decency does actually go a long way…

Glenn says:

What keeps me from going out to the [movie] theater is the theater itself: costly (for film and food), time-consuming (travel and parking), sometimes inconvenient parking, and then there’s the movie-watching experience itself (too loud, too sticky/squeaky, etc. etc. etc.)

You really can’t beat the UltraHD-big screen-HD surround sound-comfy chair-at home experience.

anonymouse says:

Re: Re:

There are a few ….very few …. theatres that do offer the easy access, valet parking, dinner with Real Food and an Adult Drink or two, comfy chairs, clean floors and a strictly enforced SHHHHH policy. Still on the costly side for a movie but on par with a good restaurant $$$$ out of $$$$$. Mind you reservations are required and walk-ins are rarely available.

Aussie Anon says:

Re: Re:

A regular movie ticket costs me $12 on concession, then another $10 for snackage, then $20-30 for fuel of a 225km round trip to the nearest cinema and home, then a further $30-40 for maintenance on the car.
All-in-all, $80 or so for watching a single movie in a cinema in town once.

Compare that to like $15/month for Netflix to watch movies & shows whenever I want and one any device I want, alongside services like Crunchyroll/AnimeLab/HiDive for my anime fix, and we can’t forget the ‘free-to-use’ (pay in ads) user-generated content services like YouTube where I can get my niche content fixes that Media companies can’t/won’t be arsed to make as they see no conventional profit in it…
Cheaper on my poor limited wallet to go with Netflix and such when using it regularly instead of paying $80 for a single movie in cinema and $100+/month for PayTV for the limited amount of channels I’d actually want compared to what gets shoved down my throat through the ridiculous bundles I’m forced to pick if I want certain shows or movies.

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