In a major first for Hollywood this year, Netflix will release a big-budget movie which it financed both in theaters, and on its streaming service at the same time.
The streaming service signed a four-film deal with Adam Sandler’s production company last year, and will release one of his films later this year (the exact date hasn’t been announced). It’s also financing a sequel to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which will be released in theaters and Netflix on August 28.
The moves into the film producing business are part of an effort at Netflix to change how films are distributed.
“The current distibution model for movies is pretty antiquated,” Ted Sarandos, chief of Netflix’s original content, said during MIPCOM, a television industry trade conference last year.
You can watch Sarandos’ entire keynote interview below:
It can take a year for a Hollywood movie to go from theaters to Netflix – part of a system set in place decades ago in which a film is released in ‘windows’: first in theaters, then in other formats such as DVD, video-on-demand and streaming.
“So, what we wanted to do is accelerate the model by putting our money where our mouth is a little bit,” says Sarandos, “And say we’ll release movies in theaters and on Netflix. And, we’ll fund the movies to make it work.”
“That’s completely different and sort of upends the old economic model,” says Chris McGurk, chief of Cinedigm, a digital content distributor, who used to be an executive at multiple Hollywood studios including Disney, Universal and MGM.
In recent years, some smaller-budget independent films have upended that model and been released in digital formats first or at the same time as in cinemas, but “now you’re talking about major motion pictures,” says McGurk, “with multi-tens of millions of dollars budgets, with top-line hollywood talent. And that is pretty much unheard of.”
McGurk says Netflix’s 50 million subscribers give it the best chance so far to make money on a major digital-first film.
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