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Movie Chains Fight Back Against Netflix Plan to Stream 'Crouching Tiger' Sequel Concurrent with Imax

30 Sep, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

AMC, Regal and Cinemark theater chains say they won’t screen ‘Crouching Tiger’ sequel at company-operated Imax locations if Netflix streams title concurrently

As expected, the nation’s largest theatrical operators Sept. 30 reacted swiftly to news Netflix has partnered with The Weinstein Co. to stream Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend on Aug. 28, 2015 — the same day the movie is available to theaters, including select Imax theaters.

AMC Theaters, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark separately issued press releases emphatically stating they would not screen Green Legend at their Imax locations if it is made available to Netflix subscribers day-and-date with the theatrical launch. This includes about 247 of the 400 Imax theaters in North America

Netflix, which is co-financing the film with Weinstein, is using the foray into theatrical productions to upend the traditional box office release window to better reflect what it considers are the market realities in the digital age.

AMC remains defiant.

“AMC Theatres and [parent] Wanda Cinema are the largest operators of Imax-equipped auditoriums in the world. We license just the technology from Imax. Only AMC and Wanda decide what programming plays in our respective theaters. No one has approached us to license this made-for-video sequel in the U.S. or China, so one must assume the screens Imax committed are in science centers and aquariums,” AMC said in a statement.

Regal said the consumer moviegoing experience revolves around screen size and sound — aspects it said cannot be replicated in the home or portable media device.

"While a home video release may be simultaneously performing in certain Imax locations, at Regal we will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to three inches wide on a smartphone. We believe the choice for truly enjoying a magnificent movie is clear," Russ Nunley, VP of marketing and communications at Regal, said in a statement.

Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos has long advocated for an overhaul of the theatrical release window, which he claims stifles innovation and borders on being a monopoly.

"Fans will have unprecedented choice in how they enjoy an amazing and memorable film that combines intense action and incredible beauty," Sarandos said about The Green Legend in a Sept. 30 statement.

Interestingly, theatrical release windows have steadily fallen over the years — from a peak of six months and 28 days in 1997 to the most recent quarter (through Sept. 25), where the average release window reached three months and 14 days — the shortest time period on record, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. During the same period last year, the theatrical window reached four months and four days.

Imax CEO Rob Gelfond said the partnership with Netflix and Weinstein could be a positive for both theaters and home entertainment — especially in markets that do not have Netflix (China, Australia, New Zealand and parts of southern and eastern Europe).

“Theaters are our partners, and by bringing additional content to the market, I think it helps the market and I think it’s helping them. I understand change isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, it’s easier to stick with the status quo, but on the other hand, if you don’t try to change you get stuck in a certain place,” Gelfond told The Wrap.


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