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Netflix takes aim at the film industry's theatrical window model

18 May 2017 | Rasmus Larsen |

With billions in the bag and lots of stardust, Netflix has embarked on its quest to change the film industry. The company has arrived in Cannes to protests and will throughout the year use stars such as Brad Pitt, Will Smith, Ben Stiller, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jane Fonda, and Adam Sandler to break down the “theatrical release window model”.

Netflix takes on the establishment

With a successful slate of TV series, documentaries, and comedy, Netflix in late 2015 decided to give the feature film category a go with the release of its first movie ’Beasts of No Nation’. In 2017, the company will go all-in.

Netflix has not only embarked on a quest to deliver quality movies. The company is targeting the dusty “window release model”, which is the foundation under the film industry. The model dictates that movies debut exclusively in the cinema before they can be shown at home. In some countries such as France it is mandated by law that 36 months must pass before movies can be made available on subscription services at home. So Netflix has avoided movie theatres to deliver on its promise of making movies available globally at the same time.

Bright - Netflix

In 2017 alone, the company is planning to spend $6 billion dollars on content
To finance its crazy movie ambitions the company has taken up loans, most recently in April 2017. In 2017 alone, the company is planning to spend $6 billion dollars on content. However, the company is convinced that its explosive growth will continue to bring in more money. The company now has over 100 million streaming subscribers with 12 million added over the last 6 months.

Amazon is not far behind with an estimated annual budget of $4.5 billion in 2017. Amazon is also producing movies such as the Oscar winner ’Manchester by the Sea’. However, unlike Netflix, Amazon conforms to the classic release window model.

Also read: Cannes film festival bans Netflix's streaming-only movies

Despite the ambitious plan to fund movie projects, the establishment appears to hate everything that Netflix stands for. Cinema owners fear that Netflix will have luck in breaking down the release window model, which they warn will have catastrophic consequences. In France, the exhibitors’ trade organization has pushed through a new rule that bans Netflix from participating at the Film Festival in Cannes starting next year unless the company starts to play by the old rule book.

The Meyerowitz Stories - Netflix

$125 million budget movies

In 2017, Netflix will release movies ranging from comedies by Adam Sandler to an action movie starring Will Smith. The will release arthouse movies from Sundance and movies that are nominated at this week’s Cannes film festival.

Later this month, Netflix will release ’War Machine’ starring Brad Pitt and ’The Meyerowitz Stories’ starring Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Adam Sandler. Some of the movies that Netflix will debut this year have cost upwards of $100 million dollars to make.

War Machine - Netflix

A portion of the titles will be made in 4K resolution and HDR (High Dynamic Range). Theatres across the world have been outfitted with 4K projectors in recent years but very few can show HDR. Dolby is currently in the process of setting up so-called ‘Dolby Cinemas’ that are capable of HDR but few are located outside the US.

Netflix is also already plotting its next moves that span even more ambitious projects such Scorsese, De Niro and Al Pacino’s ’The Irishman’. The team will reportedly start filming this August with a budget estimated at over $125 million. It appears that at this point only superhero and epic adventure movies are out of reach for the world’s largest streaming service.

Neither deep pockets nor stardust is a guarantee for success but when 2017 is over we should have a pretty good idea whether Netflix can realize its ambitions.

Netflix original movies - 2017 (not exhaustive)

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (Melanie Lynskey - February 24, 2017)
Burning Sands (Segun Akende - March 10, 2017)
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train (Missi Pyle - March 17, 2017)
The Discovery (Robert Redford – March 31, 2017)
Sandy Wexler (Adam Sandler – April 14, 2017)
War Machine (Brad Pitt – May 26, 2017)
The Meyerowitz Stories (Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler – 2017)
Okja (Tilda Swinton – June 28, 2017)
Bright (Will Smith – December 2017)
First They Killed My Father (Angelina Jolie, director - 2017)
Our Souls at Night (Robert Redford & Jane Fonda - 2017)
IO (Margaret Qualley - 2017)
Mute (Duncan Jones, director - 2017)
Wheelman (Frank Grillo - 2017)

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