Cannes recently made a rule- to begin at next year’s festival, that any film that is going to be in the festival should have a theatrical release in France. This rule was created after many French exhibitors voiced their distaste of screening Netflix’s upcoming releases- Joon Ho Bong’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories.
Here’s a question, should streaming service releases be considered equal to traditional theatrical releases? The production quality of the films (and original series) are on par with many mainstream theatrical releases, and there is a large audience that surpasses many indie films. And Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon- the giants of streaming draw many big name talents, and make stars of unknowns overnight.
Netflix alone has almost 100 million subscribers, (not users, and the US by itself has over 120 million) and many small indie films are lucky if they even see a tenth of that audience size. Netflix and other streaming services have algorithms that are customized to place films in front of their target audiences. Remember your recommendations list?
In today’s society, the traditional theater-going experience is suffering. I prefer it, but there are many who don’t. The price of unlimited access to content on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, and other services rivals a one-time ticket to a film. The average ticket price is $8.84- a modest number considering my nearest theater sells standard tickets for $16. That doesn’t include confections which will easily run a bill over $30 for one person!
In many smaller towns in the US, residents don’t have as much, if any access to more original and interesting films. The small indie releases usually don’t expand outside other major cities such as Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, etc. I remember in my hometown, there were only two theaters, and they showed the same exact films- mainstream fair. Superhero flicks for the large military population, and the occasional raunchy comedy and chick flick. Nothing artsy or profound. Nothing weird, or my cup of tea. I constantly had to wait for films that I was interested in to come to streaming services, or be released on DVD. I think this situation is what is causing the boom in streaming. Many movie-goers are bored with what local theaters have to offer, and find their fix on streaming services. In the age of instant gratification and digital access, audiences are sidelining the traditional theater experience. Companies such as Netflix realize this, and pay big bucks to both acquire and create interesting content to lure in viewers.
Why do some content creators turn down these opportunities to have their work distributed on Netflix and other streaming sites? It’s a matter of pride. They think success equates to having their films shown in traditional settings. It’s not the 90’s though. It’s not a bad thing if your film doesn’t reach a theater. In fact, if you go online, your audience may be bigger. Why do you think we have so many box office bombs? Do you think some of these films that do poorly in theaters would have success on streaming sites? Think about it! Adam Sandler has an eight picture deal with Netflix- because there is an audience for his films! Just some food for thought.
ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST