Bright

Netflix reportedly looked into acquiring theater chain to show only originals

Contributed by
Apr 19, 2018

Just when you think Netflix is done revolutionizing the way we consume media, the streaming giant goes and does something totally unprecedented.

The streaming service's ambition won't stop with hit original TV shows and direct-to-consumer distribution of high-profile studio movies. According to a report from Deadline (among other trade outlets), Netflix considered purchasing Landmark Theatres, a Los-Angeles chain of movie establishments owned by Mark Cuban, so it could screen its own roster of films and documentaries.

Alas, the acquisition did not move past the preliminary stages of looking into a possible deal, and a source familiar with the matter has confirmed to SYFY WIRE that Netflix will not be buying the chain.

Deadline's story also reported that Byron Allen, founder, owner, and chairman of Entertainment Studios, is possibly interested in buying up Landmark, which is certainly up for sale.

“We are pursuing the acquisition of numerous companies that have excellent management and brands in distribution, content, cable networks and technology. Yes, we are looking at all opportunities including the Landmark Theatres,” Allen said.

A rep for Netflix did not comment on the reports.

If it should happen in the future, buying a chain of theaters would be a sign of Netflix's bid to be seen as more than just a “TV” or streaming network. Recently, legendary director Steven Spielberg went on the record, saying that great Netflix original movies should be nominated for Emmys, not Oscars. Then, the streaming service pulled out of Cannes Film Festival after a rule change made certain films ineligible if they did not or would not receive theatrical releases in France. Just last year, however, Bong Joon-ho's Okja premiered at the festival and even received a four-minute standing ovation when it ended.

“We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said in response to Cannes' ruling that Netflix films cannot compete at the festival. “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival. They’ve set the tone. I don’t think it would be good for us to be there.”

And despite the fact that "Netflix movie" has sometimes become synonymous with sub-par projects that wouldn't fare well with a traditional theatrical release, the media company is still changing the proverbial distribution game. Just because a film doesn't get a conventional release, that doesn't mean it should come under fire from industry bigwigs who are upset that theaters are going extinct. Whether or not a Netflix movie is good or not should be the focus, rather than where it's being shown.

Projects like Bright and The Cloverfield Paradox proved that Netflix is willing to invest a sizable amount into its own cinematic endeavours, while testing out uncharted marketing waters. Promoting the third Cloverfield movie during the Super Bowl and then releasing it after the game was a total (pun intended) game-changer. Perhaps Paradox and Bright were not necessarily great films, but they opened up entirely new vistas of possibility for major franchises and blockbusters. No wonder theater owners and film industry veterans like Spielberg are a little uneasy about something that totally upends the old system. And even saying that Netflix only releases its films online is not true, as last year, the company released 33 features that appeared both in theaters and online.

The fact that big name directors like Bong Joon-ho, David Ayer, Angelina Jolie, J.J. Abrams, and even Martin Scorsese are putting their faith in Netflix means they're doing something right. When it comes to Scorsese's The Irishman, you've got an Oscar-winning filmmaker with a massive $140 million budget, an Oscar-winning screenwriter (Steven Zaillian of Schindler's List fame), and an all-star cast that includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, and Joe Pesci. That's a lot of talent in one space and it never would have come together at Netflix if it wasn't considered a formidable media juggernaut.

The entertainment colossus began by mailing DVDs to your house and is now making multi-million dollar films that could be worthy of Academy Awards. If they need to buy their own movie theaters just to be accepted by the rest of Hollywood and gain its commendations, then perhaps that's what they'll have to do. With that said, Netflix doesn't need theaters to keep creating quality content, and when the theater chains are closed and shuttered, it'll be waiting on your laptop, ready to welcome you with open arms.