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 @ 4:51am

    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...

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