To paraphrase Three 6 Mafia, "It’s hard out here for major movie theater chains."
No, not quite. Don’t cry for them, despite rapidly changing technological times that continue to put their value into question. They’ll just continue to raise ticket prices, and charge you a week’s salary for refreshments (popcorn, drinks, candy, etc). They’ll be fine… for now (insert sinister laughter here).
But I can’t blame them for continuing to fight trends that just may, one day, make them relics of a past time.
Following last year’s declaration that they will boycott Netflix’s first feature film – a sequel to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," which the streaming company plans to release both on its website and in theaters simultaneously – major theater chains, AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Carmike, have, maybe not surprisingly, announced that they will also will boycott the release of “Beasts of No Nation,” Cary Fukunaga’s drama that Netflix just acquired for $12 million, outbidding every studio that was interested in the film, which it plans to also release in a similar strategy as the "Crouching Tiger" sequel – on the same day in select theaters in the U.S., and worldwide, streaming on Netflix, in all territories where the leading Internet network is available.
In a statement, a rep for Regal said: "… at Regal we will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to [three inches] wide on a smart phone. We believe the choice for truly enjoying a magnificent movie is clear."
But not all are anti-Netflix’s disruption of staid industry practices. IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond has defended the company’s decision to partner with Netflix on a simultaneous video-on-demand and movie release of the "Crouching Tiger" sequel, saying, last year, that he believes the IMAX release will still be successful because of audiences in China, where Netflix is currently unavailable (although the company continues to try to push into that country of billions), and where IMAX theaters are not operated by the American chains AMC, Regal and Cinemark. Gelfond also emphasized that Netflix, with its new movie model, may be on to something.
"Theaters are our partners, and by bringing additional content to the market, I think it helps the market and I think it’s helping them. I understand change isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, it’s easier to stick with the status quo, but on the other hand, if you don’t try to change you get stuck in a certain place," Gelfond told The Wrap last year. "We made our reputation by innovating."
The same goes for "Beasts of No Nation," as the Alamo Drafthouse indie chain of theaters with 19 nationwide, although gradually expanding, said it will buck the trend and run the film.
Said Tim League, the company’s CEO and founder, "I’m agnostic about this sort of thing […] I look at films I want to play and I play them regardless of the release strategy […] I don’t look at myself as a competitor to Netflix. I think that argument is a little bit of a red herring. I watch a lot of movies at home, but there comes a time where I want to get out of the house. I look at cinemas as one of those options that compete with restaurants or baseball games or all of those things I can’t do in my living room."
I think he speaks for millions of Americans, including yours truly.
Adding to the conversation, Amy Kaufman, producer of "Beasts of No Nation" said: "It could be a game changer… This has the potential to change the way people perceive how movies and art are delivered to them."
Well, yes, it does. In fact, it already has!
As an aside, I have to wonder if Netflix’s acquisition of 3 "Africa-focused" indie films in the last couple of years ("The Square," "Virunga," and now "Beasts of No Nation") is by design, or if it’s all just a coincidence.
Produced by Red Crown Productions, and co-financed with Participant Media, "Beasts of No Nation" is based on the highly acclaimed novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala, bringing to life the gripping tale of Agu, a child soldier torn from his family to fight in the civil war of an unnamed African country. Newcomer Abraham Attah portrays Agu, while Elba takes on the role of Commandant, a warlord who takes in Agu and instructs him in the ways of war.
The film will debut on the same day in select theaters in the U.S. and worldwide on Netflix in all territories where the world’s leading Internet TV network is available.
It’s a film that’s on my 2016 Oscar predictions list, which you can read here.