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.

Filed Under: beasts of no nation, crouching tiget, day and date, hidden dragon, movies, release windows, theaters, uzodinma iweala
Companies: alamo draft house, amc, cinemark, imax, netflix, regal


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 6 Mar 2015 @ 1:52am

    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.

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