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We're living in a time when the nature of consuming movies is changing at a rapid rate. More and more movies have become available on VOD shortly after release, and streaming services like Amazon and Netflix have begun starting to produce their own original movies. Regardless, there has been a difference in philosophy related to these releases, as Amazon has given movies traditional theatrical runs prior to posting on Amazon Video. Netflix, on the other hand, has often relegated its originals to Netflix only, but all of that could be changing in the months to come. In a recent earnings report, the subscription streaming service revealed theatrical releases may be in the future for Netflix. Here's what the report said:
Since our members are funding these films, they should be the first to see them. But we are also open to supporting the large theater chains, such as AMC and Regal in the US, if they want to offer our films, such as our upcoming Will Smith film Bright, in theatres simultaneous to Netflix. Let consumers choose.
What Netflix is considering is different from what Amazon and the major studios offer to theaters. Currently, movies from the studios get a theatrical release and then are available on other platforms a few months later. In that relationship, theaters are able to benefit by being the only outlet that has the movies for a while. Blu-ray releases and streaming deals happen at a predetermined time after, with early Digital releases becoming more common. In Amazon's case, original movies have gotten similar runs to major studio releases and then pop up on Amazon Video. We're not sure theaters will be too keen on this new deal Netflix is thinking about proposing.
While I'm sure theaters would love to run a Will Smith starrer like Bright, as well as some of Netflix's other originals, I'm not sure there's much likelihood that audiences would be rushing to the theaters to watch Netflix movies if they can watch most Netflix originals at home on the same day. That might be different if Netflix's movies had great 3D or major special effects, but that's not really the case with most Netflix original movies, even if the budgets for those movies are expanding somewhat. I'm sure some people would rather see the movie on the big screen, but theaters have to spend money to get the rights to show those movies in the first place and to make money a large percent of people would need to buy in to the theatrical release. That's harder to do if the movie is already available from the comfort of your couch.
A few Netflix releases have gotten theatrical releases, including Beasts of No Nation, which opened in a paltry 31 theaters. One of the prerequisites for getting a major awards nod is that a movie must run in the theater somewhere, so it would behoove Netflix to try to get some of its more acclaimed films into theaters. However, the relationship between Netflix and theaters has been tenuous at best (it's often closer to outright hostility), and even though it looks like Netflix is trying to bridge that gap somewhat, Netflix looks to want to continue to play by its own rules. We'll have to wait and see if that works out for the company.