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Imax Rethinking Theatrical-Streaming Release Strategy

2 Jun, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix could be losing its only major theatrical ally. Imax, the large-format movie exhibitor reportedly will not screen new-release Netflix movies day-and-date with global streaming access.

The exhibitor, which operates more than 1,000 screens in 68 countries, last October screened Netflix’s first original motion picture, Beasts of No Nation, and most recently, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, the hyped sequel to the 2000 Oscar winner.

Both titles, among other Netflix original motion pictures, have been boycotted by the nation’s theater operators.

No Nation, despite critical acclaim, generated less than $51,000 in revenue across 31 screens. Sword of Destiny has generated $39 million globally — and nothing of record in the U.S. since its Feb. 26 debut on fewer than 20 Imax screens.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Imax CEO Richard Gelfond said his decision to partner with Netflix was an experiment driven by a changing media landscape that favors ubiquitous on-demand access.

“I learned … there isn't an appetite among exhibition for day-and-date delivery of movies over Netflix with theatrical distribution,” Gelfond said. “We probably wouldn't do that experiment [again], but we would try other experiments. If someone came to us and said, ‘Would you launch a TV series in Imax day-and-date?’ that's definitely something we would consider.”

Indeed, Imax partnered with HBO in 2015 to screen the last two episodes of season four, in addition to a teaser for season five of "Game of Thrones." The screenings generated $1.5 million at the box office despite the fact the episodes were available on-demand via HBO Go.

“We see this as a future, and not just with HBO,” Jeff Goldstein, EVP of distribution at Warner Bros., said in a statement last year — before HBO launched subscription streaming service HBO Now.

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