In a notable about-face, Netflix is abandoning its day-and-date film release strategy. Subscribers will now have to wait between one to three weeks to see the company’s biggest releases such as Roma at home, according to a report by Variety.
Netflix gives up exclusivity
This move has been brewing for some time but it is now official. In a move that is likely to anger some paying subscribers, Netflix will abandon its previous film strategy and give a handful of theaters exclusive rights to show its movies ahead of the streaming debut.
Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma will debut in the first theaters on November 21, which is three weeks before the streaming debut. It will debut in more theaters one week ahead of the streaming debut – and continue to screen after. Meanwhile Susanne Bier’s Bird Box as well as The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will both get a one-week exclusive run in theaters.
Netflix says that the “priority is our members and our filmmakers”, but this move is hardly in the interest in its 137 million members who have financed Netflix’s foray into the movie business.
- "Netflix's priority is our members and our filmmakers, and we are constantly innovating to serve them. Our members benefit from having the best quality films from world class filmmakers and our filmmakers benefit by being able to share their artistry with the largest possible audience in over 190 countries worldwide," said Scott Stuber, head of Netflix's film division.
But still limited in scope
Netflix’s theatrical releases are currently limited in scope and the plan does not include major cinema chains who typically demand an exclusive window of 90 days or more. The theaters’ lobbying group, NATO, calls it a “halfway gesture”.
- “This halfway gesture will fail to satisfy theatrical audiences, filmmakers and Netflix subscribers. Netflix has yet to learn that it isn’t theatrical vs streaming – it’s theatrical and streaming, properly sequenced,” the National Association of Theatre Owners wrote in a statement to Variety.
If Netflix wants to reach mainstream cinema, it probably has to give up even more of its exclusivity. The company has shown that it is willing to budge but will Netflix’s paying subscribers accept this situation? Time will tell.