Netflix and movie theaters have co-existed with an uncomfortable truce for years. Movie theaters get the movies first, and then Netflix farmed them out to binge-watchers in bed.
But with Netflix making original content — and making deals to put its own in-house movies into theaters — it looks like things are changing.
Forbes talked with a number of movie industry executives about Netflix’s recent deal with iPic, which will see some of Netflix’s movies make debuts in 15 luxury cinemas across the US. 10 Netflix original movies will debut in cinemas at the same time as they’re available to stream.
If the move proves popular, it will destroy the traditional industry model, which focuses on release “windows.” First, movies come to theaters; then, pay-per-view and DVD, and finally to streaming.
Netflix has already been messing with that model, but throwing it out the window completely would threaten the existence of movie distributors. Understandably, they’re not happy about the prospect.
““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 filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors,” said John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners. “Simultaneous release, in practice, has reduced both theatrical and home revenues when it has been tried.”
That statement is difficult to break down, because simultaneous release has never really been tried with a significant number of big movies.
One of the most relevant case studies is actually The Interview. After threats from hackers, the movie was released primarily online, and only in a handful of independent studios. In just three days, it made $15 million in online sales, making it the number-one online movie release.
It will be interesting to see how Netflix’s toe-dabbling in the movie industry goes. It has already found great success with making its own TV programs and releasing all episodes at once; if the same thing proves a money-maker for big movies, more changes could be coming.