Is it possible to be disturbed? That's a question I've been thinking a lot about Netflix, hoping to woo the filmmakers and get recognition for them, has stumbled, reluctantly, frantically, into the exclusive theatrical distribution.
Film festivals and the streaming company have exchanged beards, Netflix has suggested that cinemas are killing cinema, experts have declared that the three-week window for "Rome" in cinemas is a game changer (an assertion that it's hard to imagine, when 99.7% of the screens are not playing in the US), reporters have asked if Netflix is killing an independent movie.
Alfonso Cuarón, behind the stage at the Golden Globes after receiving two awards for his acclaimed film, understandably found the controversy frustrating.
"Only me [think] "The discussion between Netflix and the platforms in general should have ended," he said. "I think those guys, platforms and theatrics, should [get] Together, and just realize that everything you are doing with this discussion is damaging the cinema.
"My question for you is: how many theaters did you think was a Mexican film in black and white, in Spanish and Mixtec, which is a drama without stars? How big did you think it would be like a conventional theatrical premiere?
"It was not a cosmetic premiere. … the movie premiered more than a month ago and is still playing. That's weird for a foreign movie. Why do not you take the list of foreign films this year and compare the theatrical release with those things and for how long have they been playing? "
Mr. Cuarón's questions are good and deserve a response, although his views on the first one may be too restrictive. And I would ask a question in return: How many of those films were directed by Alfonso Cuarón?
But to your first question, regarding the amount of theaters that could project a movie like "Rome," I would suggest a nearby analog. "Ida", directed by the Polish Pawel Pawlikowski, in Polish, filmed in black and white, won the Oscar to the film in foreign language in 2015. It was launched in May 2014 and played for 53 weeks in theaters: 137 at its launch wider, comparable to the footprint of the "gypsies" – and raised $ 3.8 million. It had a launch window of 130 days. He began an 18-month broadcast on Netflix in November 2014 and certainly saw an increase in audience there when he won the Oscar. Of course, we can only guess, because Netflix generally does not publish data.
And Mr. Pawlikowski's latest film will serve as a partial answer to the second question, regarding the duration of the theatrical commitment. "Cold War" premiered the week after "Roma" debuted on Netflix, is already in theaters, distributed by Amazon, and is the official entry to the Polish Oscar for films in foreign languages. It is also in Polish, and again in black and white. Amazon intends to extend the launch throughout the awards season and has not set a date for when it reaches Amazon's broadcast service.
And that is the crux of what this debate is about. Foreign films, independent films and even those with the greatest commercial potential are finding it difficult to do theatrical runs or even perform them because the numbers are not limited. Netflix is providing a service to the industry by buying or financing some movies that otherwise could not be done. We applaud them for that. Undoubtedly, Netflix believes that these costs can be recovered by increasing subscribers or retaining them by satisfying them with the flow of products.
However, some of those titles are from directors, such as Alfonso Cuarón, who are passionately interested in a theatrical career. And many exhibitors would like to give these important filmmakers a real and exclusive theatrical career before their film transmission.
Amid the growing bustle at the Toronto International Film Festival of Netflix considering the exclusive theatrical premieres for "Rome" and some other titles, I appreciated the possibility, saying at the festival, "The cinema door is open" to Netflix, but noting that the company needed to respect the business model under which the theaters operate.
In order to accommodate those filmmakers, Netflix broke with the precedent and its recognized business model to offer some of them exclusive limited performances in theaters; this only two weeks after reaffirming in his letter of shareholders of the third quarter that he committed to the simultaneous publication of his theatrical titles. So, clearly, Netflix understands that for some titles, the theatrical exclusivity is beneficial. But Netflix's three-week artificial window unnecessarily hampered the theatrical potential of "Rome" and failed to attract the interest of most movie theater owners.
It is important to understand why the vast majority of theater owners were not interested. While studies have shown that the most active domestic transmitters are also the most frequent viewers, that does not mean that a simultaneous or almost simultaneous version does not suppress the theatrical potential of a particular title. On the contrary, a recent Barclays study emphasizes that a successful theatrical release improves consumers' perception of the value of a broadcast title and improves the long-term value of the film. Film fans make their film choices for several reasons: "I already paid for it and it's in my Netflix queue" is surely one of them. That does not mean they do not go to the theater; means that they are less likely to go to the theater to see that movie. The theater owners make their reservation decisions taking into account the behavior of the client.
To entice some movie theater owners to display the titles they buy, Netflix has reported that it "has four walls" (it has rented the rooms) and it is rumored that it has allowed theater theater owners to retain all the proceeds of the theater. the tickets. This is very unusual: in a traditional four-wall launch, the dealer withholds all ticket revenues. In short, Netflix bought a theatrical release, which means that not only the disinterest of movie theater owners limited the launch, but also Netflix's business model. The type of spending incurred by Netflix for a footprint of approximately 150 screens is not sustainable on a larger scale. It is unimaginable for a film with greater commercial potential, such as the upcoming "The Irishman" by Martin Scorsese.
What the owners of the theaters propose is not radical or unreasonable. If some of the Netflix filmmakers want a theatrical release and Netflix wants to please them, and not incidentally attract other filmmakers with similar interests and genealogies, a traditional release before it is broadcast in streaming (which will obviously be exclusive to Netflix) only It can be significant. If Netflix thought that "The Irishman" was worth $ 200 million reported only for the broadcast, an exclusive and robust release in the theater would go directly to the bottom.
The theatrical appearance (and the window) would be agreed between Netflix, its filmmakers and theater owners. But Netflix would be interested in having these discussions. The company is about to see pocket rivals entering its space that will compete for subscribers, and most importantly, for filmmakers. Netflix content costs are going to go up, and you might think you could take the opportunity to increase cash flow.
In short, in its search for prestigious films and filmmakers, Netflix has had to resort to the theatrical space that it has often denigrated. The way in which Netflix can take advantage of the opportunities offered there is clear to everyone, and everyone can win. The theater door remains open.
John Fithian is president and CEO of the National Association. of theater owners.