Magazine article Screen International

Hollywood Shaken Up by Netflix Ambitions

Magazine article Screen International

Hollywood Shaken Up by Netflix Ambitions

Article excerpt

This week Hollywood watched a Netflix horror movie called The Future.

"The streaming giant" as we all call it - a lazy epithet that merely hints at the scope of the company's ambitions - pulled back the curtain on two deals that have become the talk of the town and may well usher in wholesale change.

First came news of how Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend will open on August 28, 2015. It won't launch in the traditional way; rather The Weinstein Company/Netflix sequel will roll out globally in a simultaneous release on Netflix's streaming platform and on select Imax screens.

Studio and exhibition executives had barely caught their breath when two days later Netflix said it had struck a deal with Adam Sandler to jointly produce four films in which Sandler will star. The first opportunity anybody will get to see these films anywhere will be on Netflix's burgeoning network of close to 50 countries.

While one could argue neither transaction is depriving exhibitors of the most potent box office draws - the Crouching Tiger sequel only boasts Michelle Yeoh from the original, while Sandler is a patchy commercial prospect who has never been Hollywood's biggest export - they have left theatre owners shaken.

The three largest chains in the US - Regal, Dalian Wanda-owned AMC and Cinemark - have said they will not show Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend in any of their Imax theatres. They control more than half the 400 Imax sites in North America, setting the stage for a potentially embarrassing situation for Imax.

While Netflix is clearly intent on smashing traditional distribution windows, that must be the last thing Imax wants. How could it be otherwise? It's an exhibitor that relies on theatre chains for revenue-sharing enterprise and both sides enjoy an increasingly lucrative symbiosis.

That said, Imax wants to fill seats during theatre-going lulls like the late August corridor and would have seen the Crouching Tiger 2 deal as an opportunity to do precisely that. According to sources it was Netflix who approached Imax with the proposal. Netflix and Imax did not comment for this article.

However Imax appears to have underestimated the level of anger this move would provoke in exhibitors and doubtless will be doing what it can to smooth things over behind the scenes.

The Crouching Tiger 2 and Sandler announcements must merely be stepping stones in Netflix's mission to take on Hollywood. …

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