Can cinemas save Netflix? “The door is open”, says the boss of the commercial group

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Las Vegas (AFP) Movie industry trade body chief John Fithian has a habit of ignoring claims that Netflix will spell the end of the big screen and popcorn experience.

But with box offices rebounding from the Covid-19 pandemic and Netflix’s shares plummeting after its first loss of subscribers in a decade, Fithian predicts movie theaters could even help the streaming giant s adapt to an uncertain future.

“The door to theaters has been open for years to stream Netflix movies,” Fithian told AFP at CinemaCon, the annual Las Vegas summit hosted by the National Association of Theater Owners.

Fithian said he had “many discussions” with Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos and “urged him to try and see if they could do as well in theaters.”

“I don’t look at stock prices one way or the other – I just look at the data…you can make more money, even if you’re a streamer, if you put your best movies in theaters. first.”

Casting films widely on the big screen before offering them to subscribers would have long seemed anathema to Netflix’s hugely successful business model, which has had Disney and Warner scrambling to catch up with the so-called streaming wars.

Netflix has revolutionized Hollywood and the way movies are consumed, splurging massively to lure top stars away from traditional studios and keep moviegoers on their couches.

But the loss of 200,000 Netflix users – announced last week – spooked Wall Street, sending shares plummeting more than 30% in a single day.

Netflix has already announced new strategies it previously didn’t approve of, including cheaper subscriptions with advertising.

The streamer is currently releasing its most high-profile titles into theaters for limited runs – so they’ll be eligible for the Oscars – but could a broader theatrical focus be on the cards?

“I think the Netflix model could evolve somewhat towards that…we hope it will,” Fithian said.

A run in theaters means a movie “appears and stands out better,” while “movies that go straight to streaming services get lost,” he added.

‘Dead’

The mood at this year’s CinemaCon is noticeably brighter than last August, when a variant of Covid-19 spooked moviegoers and studios bypassed theaters to stream their wares.

This week, a raucous Fithian made headlines when he said in his annual speech that the pandemic-era trend of streaming movies the same day as theaters was “dead.”

“It didn’t come out of nowhere, it was in consultation with a lot of our studio partners on what they think about how they’re going to release their films,” he told the AFP.

Major studios have recently encouraged theater owners by largely returning to an exclusive “window” when films can only be seen on the big screen – albeit for 45 days or less, compared to around 90 days before the pandemic. .

“It’s more of a discussion about how long a window will be – or an exclusivity period -. It’s not about whether there should be one or not,” said Fitian.

‘Very concerned’

Despite warm words for Netflix and optimistic forecasts for recovery, there are still reasons for concern.

Fithian said the theater owners association was “very concerned” about Amazon Prime, noting that the subscription service’s business model was not “to try to make money from movies” , but rather to get consumers to “buy their groceries and use their shipping services”.

Amazon Prime took over Hollywood’s historic MGM in an $8.5 billion deal struck last month.

On Wednesday, it emerged that MGM’s cinematic management would leave the studio behind James Bond films and recent hits such as “House of Gucci” and “Licorice Pizza.”

“If they’re buying companies that are taking movies out of the theater supply chain, and basically only showing them at home, they’re reducing consumer choice and reducing competition,” Fithian said.

Last month, Apple TV+ became the first streamer to win best picture at the Oscars, in a year described by Fithian as “very weird”.

“We’re still very concerned about the Oscars, in general,” he said, pointing out that mainstream hits such as “Spider-Man: No Way Home” missed out on best picture nominations.

Meanwhile, cinema chains operating in Russia have been hit by Hollywood’s embargo on the invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s not a walk out of the market. It’s a pause until there’s peace, until there’s a good time to get back into the market,” Fithian said. .

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