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Netflix Looks To Simultaneously Release Movies Online And In Theaters

Jennifer Kuan |
October 30, 2013 | 4:28 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Screenshot of Ted Sarandos' keynote speech at the Film Independent Spirit Awards and Los Angeles Film Festival (Film Independent via YouTube).
Screenshot of Ted Sarandos' keynote speech at the Film Independent Spirit Awards and Los Angeles Film Festival (Film Independent via YouTube).

The Digital Video Recorder. The Netflix boom. Internet streaming and downloading.

It's hard to deny that the way in which viewers consume television and film is changing—and fast.

With the expansion of social media and on-demand forms of television distribution, both legal and otherwise, the television industry has had to account for an array of quick changes in consumer behavior. The Nielsen system is just one company that adapted to fit these changes, announcing the launch of Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings earlier this month.

The television industry has faced change faster than the film industry, but a weekend announcement from Netflix may change that.

Netflix has already added their own contribution to the changing television industry, with a proliferation of Netflix original programs that debuted this year.

These programs were a great success for Netflix; "House of Cards" won an Emmy and was nominated for more, "Orange is the New Black" generated a huge amount of Internet buzz and "Arrested Development" made its long-anticipated return for Season 4.

Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, gave a keynote speech at the Film Independent Spirit Awards and Los Angeles Film Festival over the weekend, announcing that Netflix plans to do the same with movies.

In an effort to further match consumer demands and follow with their on-demand style, Netflix suggests that it will produce a "big" original movie that would be simultaneously released in theaters and on-demand on Netflix.

This is a key distinction for Sarandos. He suggests that smaller films have already been revolutionized, at least to some extent. Although the emphasis of his speech was on "big" movies, he doesn't specify what Netflix might have in the making.

Sarandos believes that the Netflix business model, which proved to be very profitable for television, will be equally as successful for movies.

Hollywood currently works on a system that spaces out the release of major films: they premiere in the box office, then they move to DVD and finally, much later, films are available on on-demand distribution systems, pay TV and sometimes Netflix.

Sarandos does not agree with this system. In his speech, he declared that if "theater owners try to strangle innovation and distribution, not only are they going to kill theaters, they might kill movies."

This speech stirred some controversy, with John Fithian, the president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, countering Sarandos' statement in an interview with Deadline.

Fithian said, “Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well.” He added that the only business to benefit from Netflix's same-day release system would be Netflix.

With the current movie industry continuing to boom, it will be interesting to see how Sarandos and Netflix plan to get partners on board. Will this newest venture succeed in further revolutionizing the way film is distributed?

This latest announcement from Netflix challenges Hollywood and film studios: Netflix has made their move, and now it's time for them to respond.

Reach Staff Reporter Jennifer Kuan here, and follow her on WordPress here.



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