The online streaming giant could change cinema for the better.
Not content with dominating the global TV industry, Netflix has now set its sights on cinema. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Gatos-based giant is making moves on the cinema business after pursuing a deal to buy Landmark Theaters. And I for one think this is a wise move.
This might sound a bit strange to begin with. Why would Netflix, a company that’s made billions convincing people that movies can be enjoyed at home without leaving your sofa, want to invest in a business that will do the opposite? Well to understand, we have to start at the beginning.
Movies have always been central to Netflix’s core offering. Founded in 1997, it started life as a pay-per-rental service with 925 titles on its website, then launched a home delivery subscription that rivalled the likes of Blockbuster video stores by posting DVDs straight through your front door.
While Netflix has seen a rapid rise to global dominance since it launched online streaming in 2013, you could argue it’s now better known for its standout TV rather than its movies; original shows such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things proving to be both critical and commercial successes.
Its original movies have been less successful, although it’s difficult to judge this accurately seeing as Netflix flat out refuses to release viewer figures. However, one of its most recent releases, the Hollywood-style blockbuster Bright, was lambasted by critics despite Netflix claiming it was a highly popular viewing choice for its subscribers.
With plans to spend $8 billion on original and licensed content this year, including 80 original movies, Netflix needs to ensure it receives the recognition and prestige (and ultimately new customers) that come from winning major awards like Oscars. And it can’t currently do that if its movies aren’t allowed to run in cinemas and theaters.
But owning cinemas helps Netflix in lots of other ways too. There’s a lot of money to be had by showing movies in the cinema, but Netflix is currently locked out of the market because it won’t budge on its principle that movies should be released on streaming services the same day they’re in cinemas. Something cinemas simply won’t agree to.
Owning its own cinemas means Netflix can cater to people that enjoy the big theatrical experience and those who prefer to lounge at home, both at the same time. It also creates another lucrative revenue stream in the form of concessions, such as food and alcohol. Not to mention the myriad cross-marketing and advertising opportunities in the cinema itself.
The opportunities for its TV offering are huge too. If you’ve seen Altered Carbon, another hit original show, you’ll appreciate how visually stunning this could look on a big screen. I can also see Netflix running TV marathons and binge-watching sessions for its most popular shows, something that other TV production studios simply cannot do.
Most of all, I just firmly believe that the cinema needs to change. It’s way too expensive, the seats are usually very uncomfortable and the choice of movies is extremely limited. If Netflix can bring the same forward-thinking, innovative approach to cinema that it used to revolutionise TV, then I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do in this space.
Could we one day see a cinema where members vote to choose what movies are shown from the Netflix back catalogue? Or a more exclusive, intimate experience that takes its inspiration from Secret Cinema? Imagine being able to watch the premiere of Stranger Things season 3 in a cinema that’s been made to look exactly like the Hawkins laboratory.
Apparently the Landmark Theaters deal fell through because Netflix thought the asking price was too high, but the news will surely have put cinemas on edge. Whoever they decide to buy in the end, it’s not unrealistic to think that the cinema industry as we know it today could be completely different in five years’ time.
What are your thoughts on Netflix entering the cinema market?