Theater Chief on Netflix's Same-Day Cinema Release Plan: "Tread Lightly"

John Fithian Ted Sarandos - Split - H - 2016
Todd Williamson/Getty Images; Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

NATO head John Fithian's statement comes in response to news that the upscale theater chain iPic will break from tradition and carry Netflix titles on the same date they debut on the giant streaming service.

National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian has taken issue with a newly announced pact to play Netflix originals in upscale iPic cinemas on the same day the titles debut on the streaming service.

In brokering the deal with Netflix, iPic is breaking with industry tradition and closing theatrical windows. The luxury chain, which is not a member of NATO, operates 15 locations, including in Los Angeles and New York — where awards voters live. Netflix needs its original films to play in theaters in order to qualify for consideration; in the past, it has had to either rent (or four-wall) a theater or play in a smattering of independent cinemas.

"As always, individual companies make their own decisions about the appropriate release window for movies. The theatrical window is a longstanding industry practice that has benefited studios, theaters and moviegoers," Fithian said Wednesday in a statement.

"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," he continued. "Simultaneous release, in practice, has reduced both theatrical and home revenues when it has been tried."

The deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Per the terms of the pact, Netflix original movies coming out in the next year will be booked in New York and Los Angeles iPic locations. Other iPic cinemas would have the option of playing them as well.

iPic couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Netflix declined to respond to Fithian's statement.