The advance of Netflix for years sowed doubts about the future of the big screen, but the streaming giant, which is registering a progressive loss of subscribers, could benefit from the growing return of moviegoers to the seats, according to John Fithian, head of the association that brings together moviegoers. United States movie theaters.
“The doors of movie theaters have always been open for Netflix movies for years,” Fithian told AFP during the annual CinemaCon convention, which brings together the greats of the audiovisual industry in Las Vegas.
Fithian, head of the National Association of Theater Owners in the United States (NATO), said he had “several discussions” with Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, urging him to “see if productions work in theaters”.
“I’m not looking at stock prices. I’m just looking at the data. You can make more money, even as a streamer (online exhibitor, ndlr), if you show your best movies in theaters first,” he said.
brand new films first on the big screen before placing them on content platforms contravenes the successful business model of Netflix, which put Disney and Warner on the run in the middle of the so-called “streaming war”.
The platform had revolutionized Hollywood and the way audiences consume movies, spending huge amounts of money to lure stars away from traditional studios and keeping moviegoers on their couches.
But the loss of 200,000 subscribers -0.1% of its total subscriber base- in the first half, announced last week, unleashed panic in the stock market and collapsed Netflix shares by more than 30% in a single day.
The company announced several new strategies, including cheaper subscriptions with advertising.
Some of the major productions are screened in theaters on a limited basis in order to contend for Oscars, but the question that arises is whether they could consider a larger release on the big screen.
“I think the Netflix model can evolve in that direction. We hope it does,” Fithian said.
This would allow a movie to “stand out more,” the executive said, adding that “movies that go straight to streaming services get lost.”
The atmosphere is livelier at this year’s edition of CinemaCon compared to 2021, which was impacted by one of the variants of the pandemic of covid-19, which also continued to scare viewers and force studios to opt for online entertainment and not to watch movies from the seat.
This was even recorded in Fithian’s annual speech, who this week captured headlines by stating that the trend of releasing films simultaneously on digital platforms and in theaters was “dead”.
“That wasn’t just pulled out of the blue, it came out after consulting with a number of our studio partners about what they think about how they’re going to release their movies,” he told AFP.
The big Hollywood studios have recently excited theater owners by re-implementing the window of exclusivity so that movies are shown only on the big screen. However, the current window of 45 days or less is less than the 90-day window of pre-pandemic times.
“The discussion is more about the length of this window, not about whether it should be one option or the other,” Fithian said.
But there are still reasons for concern in the industry. Among them is the business model of Amazon Prime, which, according to Fithian, “is not trying to make money from movies”, but trying to attract consumers to “make their purchases or use their delivery services”.
Amazon Prime, a subscription service from the giant Amazon, took over the historic studio MGM by closing an 8.5 billion dollar deal last month.
“If they are buying companies to pull movies out of theaters and release them exclusively on platforms, they would be reducing consumer choice,” the executive explained.
Fithian also stated that there are concerns about the Oscars.
Last month AppleTV+ became the first platform streaming to win the statuette for best picture, while blockbusters like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” were conspicuous by their absence in the main categories.
The audiovisual industry is also attentive to the impact on Russian cinemas of the embargo imposed by Hollywood in response to the military invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
“The market has not been abandoned. It is a pause until there is peace, until the time is right to come back,” Fithian said, describing the past year as “very strange”.