With characteristic boldness, Netflix—the company that pioneered streaming services, binge-watching, and letting DVDs sit on top of the TV for months at a time—has become “Hollywood’s nightmare.” That’s what Deadline calls it, anyway, after Netflix announced yesterday that it would be releasing its first (fiction) feature film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend. The sequel will be released on Netflix and in IMAX theaters on the same day, discovering once and for all if people would rather see a movie in an immersive 3-D environment or on their phones at the bus stop.
But Netflix’s thirst for world domination won’t go unchecked, at least not if two equally massive corporate theater chains have their way. Regal and Cinemark theaters have both refused to play the Crouching Tiger sequel in their theaters as long as Netflix’s so-called “day-and-date” plan is in place. (Regal and Cinemark are America’s biggest and third-biggest theater chains, with 588 theaters and 334 theaters, respectively.) Explaining his company’s decision, Regal spokesman Russ Nunley makes the exact same joke we just made in the last paragraph:
“[A]t Regal we will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to 3-inch wide on a smart phone,” he said. “We believe the choice for truly enjoying a magnificent movie is clear.”
In the end, the loss of American theaters may be negligible for IMAX, which is betting on its 200 Chinese theater screens to produce most of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend’s theatrical revenue. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, Netflix has yet to debut in China.
[UPDATE: AMC, America’s second-largest theater chain, has joined the boycott. In a statement, AMC said, “No one has approached us to license this made-for-video sequel in the U.S. or China, so one must assume the screens IMAX committed are in science centers and aquariums,” prompting theater operators to snap their fingers and high-five each other. In response, IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond tells Deadline that he plans to keep working with Netflix if the Crouching Tiger experiment “works.” “We didn’t define what ‘works’ means,” he adds. “But we’ll all know if it worked or not.”]