from the don't-gingerly-nibble-on-the-hand-that-feeds-us dept
The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) is sounding the alarm over a recent deal between Netflix and iPic, in which the luxury-theater chain will screen 10 movies simultaneously with their release on the streaming service.
You would think that a theater owners' association would represent theater owners first, rather than the studios that have long battled any sort of innovation/disruption in its windowed release schedules. Of course, theaters are first on the food chain traditionally, so that probably explains the NATO head's statement, which comes across as a strange mixture of veiled threat and Stockholm Syndrome.
In a statement, NATO chief John Fithian warned that while iPic was free to make its own decisions, “We all should tread lightly and be mindful that over the years, the film industry’s success is a direct result of a highly successful collaboration between film makers, distributors and exhibitors.”
Yes, let's tread lightly and be mindful that creating artificial scarcity is a fool's errand, but creating an experience that people will leave the house for is something that can't be delivered over an internet connection. This defense of the way things have always been done -- phrased the way it is here -- sounds like NATO distancing itself from iPic, the way one distances themselves from close relatives with multiple indecent exposure arrests.
NATO head Fithian goes on to claim that day-and-date releases won't work because they've never worked in the past.
“Simultaneous release, in practice, has reduced both theatrical and home revenues when it has been tried,” Fithian said in a statement. “Just as Netflix and its customers put a value on exclusivity, theater owners and their customers do too.”
Conveniently ignored is the fact that past day-and-date releases have never been fully embraced by studios and, as a result, have been handled ineptly and cluelessly. These have been done on an extremely limited basis and almost always with an exorbitant price tag attached.
There's probably a tad more defensiveness than usual in NATO's statement. Now that there's a group containing respected directors and producers backing a day-and-date release startup, the "threat" is more substantial than a few streaming providers whose libraries have been stripped to nearly nothing by major studios over the last few years.
Theaters aren't going to go away completely. Under-performers who can't offer an experience worth leaving the house for will fall by the wayside, but day-and-date releases will only slightly hasten their demise. If there were more experimentation, everyone involved might find new ways to make money. But as long as people like Fithian are in charge, nothing will move forward. It a small roll out of Netflix films to theaters -- solely for the purpose of allowing the streaming company to get some entries in the Oscar race -- results in these sorts of statements, any chance of studios and theaters moving on from traditional windowed releases is still a long way off.