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Don’t expect Netflix to follow the lead of its rivals and embrace a traditional theatrical model as Amazon and Apple are doing.
“The film division is doing great,” Ted Sarandos said during an earnings call Tuesday. “Driving folks to a theater is just not our business. Having big new desirable content drives value for our members and drives value for our business. There are no major changes in play.”
He also said that while it is tempting to make a comparison between services, those other services “simply” don’t have the same scale and reach.
The big streamers have historically focused on making their original movies available quickly to subscribers, versus allowing a lengthy berth in cinemas. Apple Original Films and Amazon Studios are now changing course in dramatic fashion. But not Netflix.
To be sure, Netflix for years has given many of its original movies — and particularly awards fare — some sort of truncated release on the big screen. But many cinemas, including the major chains, won’t play a title unless it has an adequate exclusive window (these days, that can mean 35 to 40 days). Netflix hasn’t been inclined to abide by these parameters, meaning it has to rely on a patchwork of indie cinema circuits.
Amazon kicked off its new plan of action earlier this year when announcing that it would give Ben Affleck’s Air a traditional release in cinemas around the globe. The critically acclaimed movie debuted over the Easter holiday, and has earned north of $54 million to date globally.
Apple Original Films quickly followed by announcing that it too is moving into the theatrical space, setting an October 2023 release date in tandem with Paramount for Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and Robert De Niro. Like Air, the high-profile Western crime drama will spend weeks in cinemas before debuting on streaming.
Further, Apple is teaming with Sony to give Ridley Scott’s Napoleon a splashy run on the big screen. The movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix, opens in cinemas Nov. 22, the eve of the lucrative Thanksgiving corridor.
Last year some thought Netflix might be changing its mind when striking a landmark deal with the major theater chains to carry Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery for one week over Thanksgiving before the sequel hits the streamer a month later. But Sarandos quickly threw cold water on the idea that Netflix was embracing theatrical, saying during an earnings call that streaming is the preferred platform for viewing a movie.
Netflix’s 2023 slate of original movies includes a number of high-profile titles coming out in November and December, beginning with David Fincher’s The Killer, starring Michael Fassbender; the rom-com A Family Affair, starring Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Joey King, Liza Koshy and Kathy Bates; psychological thriller Leave the World Behind, starring Julia Roberts and Mahershala Ali; and Zack Snyder’s space opera epic Rebel Moon.
“Because of our reach and our scale, it affords the opportunity to invest in these big movies and bring them to our members,” Sarandos said.
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