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Netflix Original Films: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You?

By  · Published on April 25th, 2017

The future of the streaming giant might not be streaming.

When streaming companies like Netlfix and Amazon got into the business of making original feature films, the industry was poised for a major change. Because these weren’t B-movies the companies were making, they weren’t the kind of low-brow fodder that gets released directly for home viewing every week, they were full-on, talent-backed, major motion pictures. Netflix had an amazing critical run (and some would say an Oscar snub or two) with Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, and Amazon last year produced a slew of significant films from significant directors, including Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, and most notably, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, which did manage to snag a handful of Oscar noms and even walked away with a pair of wins, one for Lonergan for Best Original Screenplay, and one for Casey Affleck for Best Actor.

The difference? The Amazon productions mentioned above all had regular theatrical runs before appearing on Prime’s streaming service, while Netflix debuts its films online and hardly ever releases them into theaters. Sure, Beasts of No Nation had a limited theatrical run, but that was simultaneous with the streaming release. Until now, Netflix has remained adamant about sticking to what it knows – streaming – and for a pretty noble reason: members fund their productions, so members should have first access to them. But according to the company’s latest quarterly report (via Screen Rant), that might be changing.

Mentioned in the report is the hiring of Scott Stuber – producer of such Mark Wahlberg films as Patriot’s Day and Ted – who’s been tapped to head up a new initiative in original films. In mentioning the hire, the report also mentions a few of the company’s expectations for the new role:

We recently hired Scott Stuber to lead our original films initiative. Our goal remains the same: to offer a variety of new movies that will attract and delight members at better economics relative to licensing movies under traditional windowing. Some of our early movies have been successful by this measure, such as the Sandler movies and Siege of Jadotville. Others, such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, have not. Scott’s mandate is to increase both the portfolio and the percentage of films that delight many of our members relative to the film’s cost.

Since our members are funding these films, they should be the first to see them. But we are also open to supporting the large theater chains, such as AMC and Regal in the US, if they want to offer our films, such as our upcoming Will Smith film Bright, in theatres simultaneous to Netflix. Let consumers choose.

It’s not a concrete plan, and in fact it sounds a little condescending – “supporting the larger theater chains,” ouch – and as for the film mentioned, Bright from David Ayer (Suicide Squad), I’m not too sure it’s the best flagship for the Netflix theatrical distribution model, seeing as no one’s really turned up to see a Will Smith vehicle in the theater since Men in Black 3.

And of course there’s the theater side of things. Besides being competitors with Netflix in the major motion picture department, simultaneous releases still favor the streaming service – you can pay the same for a month of Netflix or a night at the movies – so it remains to be seen how interested they’ll be in giving up screen space for something already available on every TV in America.

So what do you think? Would you go see Netlfix original films in the theater over the comfort of your own home? I for one would not. That’s just a double-dip in the wallet, I’m already paying for the film at home, so why would I shell out more cash to see it somewhere else? But I’m a bit of a skinflint and a fuddy-dud, so let’s hear your opinion: Netflix original films – to stream, or not to stream?

Over in our corner of the internet we had a lot of really interesting posts go up yesterday, including a review of The Lost City of Z, a look at the shifting on-screen image of actress Margot Robbie, a peek at Clint Eastwood’s next project and the next X-Men movie, and a video that compiles instances of pop culture referencing Quentin Tarantino.

And lastly, take a look at five of the most popular shots we tweeted over the last 24 hours. Want more? You know where to find us.

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000) DP: Peter Pau | Dir: Ang Lee
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (2011) DP: Seamus McGarvey | Dir: Lynne Ramsay
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955) DP: Ernest Haller | Dir: Nicholas Ray
LE SAMOURAÏ (1967) DP: Henri Decaë | Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville
BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) DP: Burnett Guffey | Dir: Arthur Penn

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