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Netflix Inks Distribution Deal With Luxury Theater Chain

5 Oct, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix has signed an agreement with iPic Entertainment, upstart developer of luxury theater chains offering full-service in-seat dining, to screen new-release movies day-and-date with their global streaming access.

The deal covers 10 movies, which will be released in iPic Theaters in Los Angeles and New York, in addition to 13 other locations and select indie theaters.

A Netflix spokesperson confirmed the deal, saying the subscription-streaming pioneer would make a formal announcement Oct. 7. The Wall Street Journal first reported the arrangement.

The agreement exemplifies Netflix’s ongoing effort to boost lagging domestic subscriber growth and curry theatrical credibility while upending the traditional theatrical window.

COO Ted Sarandos, a longtime critic of the industry practice granting theaters exclusive 90-day access to new-release movies, has sought to circumvent the national chains by signing up select Imax screens and indie exhibitors — with minimal results.

Netflix’s first original movie, Beasts of No Nation, was released simultaneously to streaming and select theatrical screens on Oct. 16, 2015. Despite widespread critical acclaim, Nation generated just $90,000 at the domestic box office and failed to land an Oscar nomination — the latter reportedly due to industry pushback. National chains such as Regal and AMC have refused to screen Netflix movies.

Actor Idris Elba (“Luther”) did win for “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role” at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, among other industry accolades. Nation has not been released on disc in retail channels. 

Regardless, Sarandos has said the theatrical screenings are done primarily to underscore a movie’s status and appease industry (i.e. awards circuit) insiders.

“I think it's important for people to understand that these movies are not TV movies. They're of the same size and scale and scope of the movies you will see in theaters. So one way to do that is to have them in theaters,” Sarandos said on a fiscal call in July 2015.


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