Netflix's Okja looking happy

For better or for worse, Netflix has always been known as a disruptor within the entertainment landscape. The streaming service has fundamentally changed how we consume content, and that impact has often brought it into direct conflict with more traditional platforms and services. With that in mind, Netflix original movie Okja recently garnered quite a bit of controversy when it screened at the Cannes Film Festival, and the project's issues are far from over. Now it appears that the South Korean-American sci-fi film has drawn the ire of South Korean movie theaters because of the impact its simultaneous release schedule will have on Korean theaters.

Ahead of the upcoming release of Bong Joon-Ho's Okja later this month, CJ CVG (a major South Korean movie theater chain) has actually refused to screen the film because of its simultaneous Netflix/theater release schedule. South Korean film releases typically involve bringing a given movie to theaters before offering it on digital, and theater chains have argued that a grace period such as this is vital for keeping the traditional theater model alive. The economics of the argument are fairly straightforward: if a film is offered up for home release on the same day that a movie hits theaters, then the number of people who choose to stay home will naturally eat into a theater chain's profits.

A source associated with CJ CVG spoke out about the refusal to screen the film to THR and explained the rationale behind the business decision, saying:

We believe there should be a gap between its theatrical opening and online release. In case this does not happen [and Okja opens in cinemas and on Netflix simultaneously as planned], then we have discussed the possibility of not screening the title at CGV theaters. Netflix has completely disregarded the ecosystem of the Korean film market.

This isn't the first time that Okja has run into problems. The film received boos when it screened at Cannes because Netflix has chosen to skirt the traditional theatrical release model, and it has caused a massive uproar over what films will actually qualify for the film festival based on whether or not they receive theatrical releases.

This discussion about the implications of a simultaneous release is not limited to the South Korean or French film markets. It is a conversation that has started to take place in the United States, as well. As groundbreaking digital services like Netflix and the highly controversial Screening Room become hot topics of discussion, opinions on the importance of a gap between theatrical and home release of a given film have varied wildly. We saw this happen last year with the release of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny and the insistence on theaters maintaining an exclusive monopoly on a film's initial release (for at least 60-90 days) has become a hot-button issue in recent months. Okja is the latest battleground, but it definitely won't be the last before a solution is reached.

For now, it does not look like this controversy is going away anytime soon, and Okja's release date is closing in fast. The film will premiere June 28 on the subscription streaming service. That said, there are still plenty of excellent non-Netflix films set to debut in theaters this year; check out our 2017 movie premiere guide for more information about all of them!

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