retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Think of this as a cautionary tale about not being too sure about one's own competitive security.

Variety has a story about how IMAX, Netflix and the Weinstein Co. are making a sequel to the hit film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, called Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend, that will, contrary to traditional practice, will be "available for streaming on the same day it hits theaters in 2015."

Almost as soon as the plans were announced, "the four largest exhibitors in the U.S., AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike, pledged not to show the martial arts sequel next year. That represents 257 of IMAX’s 418 U.S. screens, and these theater chains were joined by Canada’s largest exhibitor Cineplex, and Europe’s second largest theater chain, Cineworld, in a boycott that has grown international in scope."

While independent films sometimes are available on services like iTunes and On demand before being shown in theaters, it does not usually happen with major releases. But this is seen as being just the beginning of a trend.

And, Variety writes, even if the major exhibitors "succeed in preventing the Crouching Tiger revival from showing in theaters while it bows on Netflix at the same time, the old release date patterns are starting to look too archaic to the current insta-generation of consumers … There’s a sense among many Hollywood leaders that the window between a film’s theatrical debut and its release on home video is too long, especially for the Internet age. Plus, studios spend tens of millions of dollars marketing films to the masses only to have to turn around and shell out again to re-familiarize audiences with a particular picture when it hits home platforms."

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, the story says, "predicted earlier this year that theatrical windows would shrink to three weeks in the next 10 years, suggesting that audiences should 'pay by the inch' to see a movie based on the size of the screen they watch it on.
'A movie screen will be $15,' he said, 'A 75-inch TV will be $4. A smartphone will be $1.99'."

As yet another measure of how this particular segment of the world is changing, the writes that Netflix will announce today that "it has struck a deal with the comedian Adam Sandler to produce and star in four new feature films that will appear exclusively on the streaming service … Through the agreement, Netflix will solely finance the films and will work with Happy Madison Productions, which was founded by Mr. Sandler, on them. Netflix declined to comment on specific terms of the deal, but said the films would have the characteristics of theatrical releases, with similar-size budgets. (The production budgets for Mr. Sandler’s recent films have ranged from about $40 million to $80 million.)"

And, the Times adds, "Netflix has said that it will spend $3 billion on content in the next year. After initially focusing on original television series, the company has recently set its sights on film, too."
KC's View:
I've long felt that in many ways it will be the type of movie that will determine where a film is seen … there are plenty of small movies that simply cannot make a splash in theaters, and it seems perfectly legitimate to debut them via streaming.

I guess my only real concern here is that Netflix should be careful about becoming a refuge for stars past their expiration date. Adam Sandler hasn't made a decent movie in a long time; he is, in fact, one of the few people who, when I see his name, I make a conscious decision not to see the movie. And since his last few films have bombed, a lot of people apparently feel the same way. Still, he is a brand name, and he will bring a lot of attention to the Netflix initiatives.