A New Strategy?
In what amounts to a breakthrough collaboration, Netflix (NFLX) has agreed to release its sequel to the murder mystery Knives Out in movie theaters prior to its streaming debut. Prior to this point Netflix has resisted such plans, but “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” will be screened in hundreds of theaters in a month-long sort of sneak preview.
From November 23 to November 29 the film will be shown at 600 theaters operated by Regal Cinemas, AMC (AMC), and Cinemark Holdings (CNK). Industry observers say that’s a significant number of screens across a wide range. The streaming debut being delayed a full month is also noteworthy, given Netflix’s historical preference to immediately release titles to its subscribers.
Beyond Oscar Considerations
In the past, Netflix has typically only allowed films to be shown in theaters so as to qualify for award competitions like the Oscars. The Academy Awards require a movie to have at least three paid, daily showings for a full week straight in order to be eligible.
The streaming platform has shown films in cineplexes before, such as 2018’s “Roma” and 2019’s “The Irishman”. Now the company is embracing what it refers to as a “special theatrical event” after the new Knives Out flick received widespread praise at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival. In theory, releasing films in theaters exposes them to a larger audience ahead of their streaming debut, while for the movie houses themselves it’s an additional chance to sell tickets.
The Thrill of the Crowd
Director Rian Johnson says his Knives Out film is intended to be played in front of an audience, adding that he looks forward to feeling the crowd’s energy. Some in Hollywood say the film’s theatrical debut is likely a test run for Netflix. If it’s successful, more of the streaming platform’s movies could make their premiere on the big screen.
At the same time, the streaming release being delayed by a month could be the limit, time wise. Top agents say if an A-list filmmaker like Mr. Johnson can only negotiate a four week window, that likely means Netflix isn’t comfortable going beyond that point. For film fans it could make it more tempting to get off the couch and head to the theater – especially if waiting several weeks for a much anticipated title is simply unbearable.
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