Netflix CEO Reed Hastings—never a man to mince words when it comes to poking the competition or drumming up some headlines for his streaming empire—called out his competitors in the big movie theater chains with some bold words this week. “How did distribution innovate in the movie business in the last 30 years?” Hastings asked during a press Q&A yesterday. “Well, the popcorn tastes better, but that’s about it.” (Side note for our own personal benefit: Does anybody actually think that’s true, or are the latest butter-like substances basically the worst?)
Netflix is currently in a running fight with the big chains, as it moves more and more firmly into the world of film production. The sticking point comes down to distribution schedules; Netflix wants its movies to debut online the first day they show up in theaters. That’s basically anathema to the big chains, which have always had exclusivity as one of their key selling points. “We are not anti theater,” Hastings said, dropping his concession-based jibes. “We just want things to come out at the same time.” The conflict doesn’t appear to be anywhere near resolving, although Netflix did score a coup last year by signing a deal with a small, 15-theater chain to show its films, meaning they’ll now be eligible for possible Oscar nods.