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In a move that bolsters its theatrical distribution division, Netflix has hired Spencer Klein as director of distribution. The executive, who was Chris Aronson’s No. 2 at Fox, will oversee the company’s efforts to release movies in theaters and become a full-fledged studio. He will report to Scott Stuber, head of Netflix Film.
The streaming giant also has brought on theatrical distribution veteran Lori Bandazian from Lionsgate as a New York-based consultant and extended the role of former Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman, who was enlisted last year to work on Roma‘s release, among other titles.
The moves signal that Netflix might be looking to duplicate what Amazon already has done in creating a proper film distribution division that can rely on internal talent rather than so-called “four-walling” a movie whereby it rents out a theater. But an insider says Netflix’s releasing model isn’t expected to change in the near term and the moves simply reflect the enormous volume of movies getting some kind of theatrical exposure — 30-plus films last year, including Roma, which unspooled on 1,200 screens worldwide and is still in theaters internationally.
In January, Netflix joined the Motion Picture Association of America alongside what was then the six major Hollywood studios (since then, the Disney acquisition of Fox closed, leaving the playing field with only five majors). That move coincided with Netflix landing 15 Oscar nominations, including best picture nominee Roma. But Roma was denied a best picture win — despite an unprecedented Oscar campaign — amid a continued backlash against the streamer because it doesn’t abide by theatrical windows and its business model is perceived as eroding the theatrical movie business. Many theater owners won’t carry Netflix’s original films because of its windows policy, and the Cannes Film Festival wouldn’t allow the streamer’s content into its Competition lineup.
Netflix’s awards-season guru Lisa Taback had been overseeing distribution in an informal capacity since the company’s Andy Gruenberg died suddenly in January. The question now remains whether Netflix is looking to theatrically release its event-style films like the Will Smith starrer Bright or merely its awards-season hopefuls. Later this year, it will release Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, a film that cost at least $140 million and would appear to straddle both categories. The company’s rollout plans for that film — including its release date — remain undisclosed for now.
Klein was hired by Fox in 2012, marking Aronson’s first official hire since he took the reins of Fox’s domestic distribution operations.
Klein previously supervised domestic sales for The Weinstein Co.’s genre division Dimension Films, and also held positions at Loews Cineplex Entertainment, Bow Tie Cinemas, New Line Cinemas and New Yorker Films.
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