AMC Theatres Boycotting 'Crouching Tiger 2' in Major Blow for Netflix, Imax

Gerry Lopez - P 2014
Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Open Road Films/AP Images

Gerry Lopez - P 2014

The giant exhibitor won't carry the film in any of the 147 Imax theaters it operates in the U.S., while parent company Wanda may not carry it in China

AMC Theatres has joined the country's two other largest chains in slamming a plan to release the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel directly on Netflix and in select Imax locations, saying it won't play the film in any of its Imax venues.

"AMC Theatres and Wanda Cinema are the largest operators of Imax-equipped auditoriums in the world. We license just the technology from Imax. Only AMC and Wanda decide what programming plays in our respective theaters. No one has approached us to license this made-for-video sequel in the U.S. or China, so one must assume the screens Imax committed are in science centers and aquariums," AMC said in a terse statement.

The historic Netflix-Imax deal was announced Monday night, prompting immediate outrage among exhibitors gathered together this week in Los Angeles for a National Association of Theater Owners meeting, since it makes the movie available simultaneously in the home and on the big screen. Regal and Cinemark were the first to weigh in, followed by Carmike, and now AMC. Between them, AMC, Regal and Cinemark alone operate 247 Imax locations, the vast majority of the 400 Imax sites in North America.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend will make its debut Aug. 28, 2015. Netflix has long wanted to get into the first-run movie business and actually co-financed the $60 million-plus sequel with The Weinstein Co.

AMC's boycott is especially problematic because it operates 146 locations in the U.S., the most of any circuit. Regal follows with 86.

Read more Imax CEO on 'Crouching Tiger 2' Netflix Ruckus: "I Knew It Wouldn't Work for Some People"

Chinese conglomerate Wanda, AMC's parent company, has the biggest Imax footprint overseas, so that also poses a problem. Imax has particularly ambitious plans for Crouching Tiger 2 in China, since there is no Netflix there.

In the past, Gerry Lopez's AMC, unlike most other exhibitors, has been willing to play select titles that are getting a day-and-date VOD release, but the distributors generally have to rent the theaters. AMC, however, does not appear willing to extend that courtesy to Crouching Tiger 2.

In Europe, giant exhibitor Cineworld also has denounced the plan, saying it won't carry the sequel either. Ditto for Cineplex in Canada.

Imax only owns a handful of its theaters. The rest are joint ventures with exhibitors, with Imax providing the theaters and taking a piece of the box office. It also operates about 125 theaters in museums, science centers and aquariums.

When announcing the Green Legend deal, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos and Imax said it will be the first of several major films to be given a day-and-date release on the platform.