When Netflix first started streaming content to its subscribers in 2008, many thought the service was crazy. Fast-forward to 2015, and the company not only has over 50 million subscribers, but it also now offers original content, including TV series and movies.
Now, though, Netflix plans on changing the industry again: by offering original movies that open in theaters and on its streaming service at the same time. That revolution begins today: Netflix's film Beasts of No Nation is now available in theaters and on the Netflix website and through its many apps.
However, this move angered theater owners, many of whom previously stated they would not show Beasts of No Nation, which stars Idris Elba, on their screens. The big movie chains, such as AMC, Regal, Carmike and Cinemark have sworn off the film because Netflix is doing something different.
Typically, when a film runs in a theater, there's a 90-day delay between that movie's theatrical debut and its debut on home entertainment. However, those rules apply to a day and age before Internet streaming became so popular and before moviegoing declined. The moviegoing process is not only expensive now (imagine how much one would spend for a family of four to buy tickets, as well as to get popcorn and drinks), but also more tedious: why sit in a theater with often-rude strangers when you can find something equally as entertaining for a lot less money to watch at home?
"Netflix says, 'This is about consumer choice,'" says National Association of Theater Owners vice president Patrick Corcoran to Wired. "Well why aren't they then available on DVD, Blu-ray, pay-per-view? It's exclusive in the home to Netflix, because exclusivity is important."
Netflix does believe it's about giving consumers a choice: go and experience a film in a movie theater or experiencing it at home: both give the viewer the film, but lets that viewer choose what kind of setting to see it in.
"I'm agnostic about this sort of thing," said Netflix CEO and founder Tim League to Variety. "I look at films I want to play and I play them regardless of the release strategy."
It seems that theater owners are more concerned about people choosing the Netflix option over going to the theater, at least in the case of Beasts of No Nation, but if that is the case, it could mean that viewers prefer a better theatergoing experience than they're currently getting from the big chains.
Meanwhile, smaller independently-owned theaters will play Beasts of No Nation.