- Netflix could experiment with longer cinema windows this year.
- It’s something cinema executives have been pushing for years.
- Industry leaders believe a 45-day window would be mutually beneficial.
Cinemas are chronicling their comeback story, and
could be part of it.
Theater executives have been trying to convince Netflix to expand their theatrical production for years, and they’re still courting the streamer.
“We are always open to major theatrical releases from the
Companies when they have the right windows,” John Fithian, CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, told Insider during an interview at last month’s CinemaCon trade show conference. “Netflix has the theater door open if they want to go with a bigger theatrical strategy.”
A source close to the cinema industry said theater owners want Netflix to release films with an exclusive window similar to traditional Hollywood studios, moving from the typical 90-day window before the pandemic to 30 days or less in most cases was reduced to 45 days. And they would expect Netflix to invest significantly in marketing these films, the person said.
Theater directors can fulfill their wish. Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw reported Sunday that Netflix is considering releasing some of its films to theaters this year with a 45-day window before they become available to stream. Some of the films under consideration are Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s sequels to Knives Out and Bardo, according to Bloomberg.
Netflix declined to comment on the Bloomberg report when asked by Insider.
A 45-day exclusive theatrical run would be quite the linchpin for Netflix, which has resisted longer windows for the select titles it brings to theaters, much to the chagrin of theater execs. It gave his two Oscar contenders last year, Don’t Look Up and The Power of the Dog, two-week windows, while his zombie action film Army of the Dead ran in theaters for a week before it was streamed.
But that wouldn’t be the first turning point for Netflix in recent times. The company is aiming for an ad-supported tier, which it has repeatedly shot down in the past as it now faces slowing growth. In the first quarter, the company lost subscribers for the first time in a decade and announced on Tuesday that it would lay off 150 employees.
Theater executives say longer cinema windows encourage streaming releases
For cinemas, it would help with one of their biggest hurdles on the road to recovery: fewer film releases as studios produce more films directly for streaming, and production delays caused by the pandemic.
Heading into 2022, Fithian Insider said in a previous December interview that major Hollywood studios had 90 films on the theatrical release slate, compared to the typical 120 a year before the pandemic.
Netflix now releases dozens of movies every year.
“We’ve shown a lot of Netflix movies and think they could have a bigger hit with an expanded window,” said Chris Jonson, CEO of Illinois-based theater chain Classic Cinemas. “They have an intelligent theater team and produce a wide range of films, so we’d love to expand our relationship with them and believe it would benefit both the industry and Netflix.”
Getting Netflix to agree to an extended window for the sequel to Knives Out would be a huge win. The first film to be released by Lionsgate was a surprise box office hit, grossing over $300 million worldwide, including $165 million in the US, on a budget of $40 million.
At CinemaCon, theater industry leaders were giddy that the major Hollywood studios had largely moved away from “day-and-date” releases, such as premiering films in theaters and on a streaming service simultaneously , a tactic most widely used during the pandemic.
Speaking at the conference, People Insider believed that an exclusive theatrical release would only increase excitement for a film’s eventual streaming debut.
Some think similarly about Netflix.
“The prestige and exclusivity of a theatrical release can pay dividends in both the short and long term for films that resonate with critics and/or viewers alike,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “Nothing has the sensational power of a major theatrical release.”
He added that it could also help Netflix with talent relations. The streamer has attracted high-profile filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Jane Campion with big checks and freedom, but an exclusive theatrical release also goes a long way in building those relationships — especially as the company anticipates further subscriber losses.