Netflix is challenging Hollywood’s carefully protected system of release “windows” for films by striking a deal with the Weinstein Company to premiere the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on its streaming service.
The film will be released at the end of August next year to Netflix’s 50m subscribers in more than 40 countries, and to big screen Imax cinemas simultaneously, the streaming company said.
The deal puts Netflix on a collision course with other cinema chains and exhibitors, which have fiercely resisted the so-called “day and date” release of movies, whereby they are launched in cinemas and on digital services on the same day.
When Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, first floated day and date releasing in a speech last year, it prompted John Fithian, chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners in the US, to accuse the company of trying to “kill the cinema”.
However, in an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Sarandos said the simultaneous release of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend was a “natural evolution” of what the streaming service had already done with television programming.
Netflix has already produced its own TV shows, including political drama House of Cards, and made the entire series available to be watched by subscribers from a single date – leading to a phenomenon known as “binge viewing”.
“We were able to shake-up the way television shows get distributed in favour of the consumer,” Mr Sarandos said. “We’re trying to innovate with movies on behalf of the consumer in the same way.”
He acknowledged that Netflix was likely to encounter a “push back” from exhibitors and cinema chains over its Crouching Tiger release. But he argued that there would be demand for more films to be launch on Netflix, in conjunction with a simultaneous theatrical release.
“It shouldn’t be such a big deal that we’re offering consumers choice in 2014,” he said. “We hope it will become the norm over time.”
Rich Gelfond, chief executive of Imax, expressed confidence that the availability of the movie on Netflix would not hinder the cinema-going experience. “It’s like a big sporting event,” he said. “People still go to the stadium even though they can watch it at home at the same time.”
To read more about Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in IMAX visit Financial Times.