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Netflix has built itself into an entertainment juggernaut specifically by giving consumers a seemingly endless number of reasons, first on DVDs and then on streaming, not to leave their home and go to the theater. This has put the company at odds with entrenched parts of the film industry, exhibitors in particular. Now, although Netflix hasn’t beat the theaters, it looks like it could still join them as the streaming service may officially buy its own theater.
Netflix is in early talks with the non-profit American Cinematheque to buy the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. If it comes to pass, this deal, which could be worth tens of millions of dollars, would get Netflix its very first physical movie theater. The purchase is far from done and there are issues with real estate and permits that must be settled before it can be finalized, but Netflix is on its way to owning a theater, and a historic one at that.
However, despite the fact that Netflix (and Amazon) has flirted with purchasing a theater chain in the past, Deadline’s sources indicate that this should not be viewed as Netflix diving headfirst into its own operational theater business. So don’t expect every town to have a Netflix theater anytime soon.
While it may be a one-off thing for now and not the first domino to fall in a plan to conquer the theater industry, Netflix’s potential purchase of the Egyptian Theatre offers a number of positive outcomes for the streaming service, the Egypitian Theatre, American Cinematheque and the film community.
The Egyptian Theatre is a Hollywood landmark; built by Sid Grauman in the early 1920s, the theater hosted Hollywood’s first movie premiere (Robin Hood) in 1922. The Egyptian last underwent a renovation in 1998 and this deal would help preserve the historic theater and its mission to keep the big screen movie tradition alive for years to come.
American Cinematheque currently screens classic, historic, foreign, independent and rarely seen films, amongst other things, at both the Egyptian Theatre and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Under the deal, the non-profit American Cinematheque would gain a much needed influx of cash to help it stay afloat and expand its programming.
Netflix and American Cinematheque look at this potential purchase as a partnership that would establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Netflix would screen its films on weekday nights, as well as have special screenings and events for its bigger titles. Also, this purchase would not impact Netflix’s existing relationships with chains like IPIC or Landmark Theatres that play the service’s films. American Cinematheque would retain the freedom to play what it wants, while getting the financial support to continue running screenings, lectures and festivals on weekends.
You can see how purchasing the Egyptian Theatre would be something of an olive branch, meant to ingratiate the disruptive streaming service to cinephiles and those in the industry that have a negative view of Netflix. Netflix, the company that made it so you could watch movies on a 4” phone screen, would be preserving a historic theater whose mission is to champion the big screen experience. This move would show that Netflix values that experience.
This news comes on the heels of an Oscar season where Netflix’s Roma made a major splash, raising the issues of whether or not streaming movies should be eligible for Academy Awards. Some in the industry, like Steven Spielberg, who are champions of the theatrical experience are against streaming movies with short theatrical windows being eligible. At the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, Netflix will be sitting out for the second year in a row in part because of the tension with exhibitors. Hopefully this will be the first step towards everyone getting along.
Netflix is out here trying to change hearts and minds. We’ll see if it works.
Check out our 2019 release schedule to keep track of all the biggest theatrical releases this year.