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Famed director Martin Scorsese has a new three-and-a-half hour crime epic coming this fall and it’s got everything: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa, and Joe Pesci in his first film in nearly a decade. Helmed by a filmmaker nominated for eight Best Director Academy Awards, it’s said to have cost $159 million to produce. On paper, it’s slated for both Oscar glory and box office success, and yet, you might have to make a serious effort to catch it in theaters.

That’s because Scorsese’s new film, The Irishman, will be distributed by Netflix. News broke on last Tuesday that Netflix, despite months of negotiations, couldn’t reach a deal with the major movie chains AMC, Regal, and Cinemark for a wide theatrical release. It isn’t Netflix’s fault, per se; even though the company is a streaming service first, it tried to broker deals for a 30-day window. The major theater chains balked at the idea, though, preferring instead a traditional 90-day window that allows for maximized profits. It also protects them from losing out on ticket sales from viewers content to wait a few weeks for a digital release.

Netflix will still show The Irishman in some smaller, independent theaters, starting Nov. 1 ahead of its streaming release on the 27th, ensuring the film will still qualify for the Oscars. It’s the same strategy Netflix took with Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, which took home Best Foreign Language Film at last year’s Oscars. And it’s a strategy that Netflix looks poised to expand upon, with Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, the Timothee Chalamet–starring The King, and director Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story all seeing a limited theatrical release before streaming online this fall.

This approach makes sense in the short-term as Netflix increasingly pursues prestige trophies. It gives the platform’s movies a chance to win Academy Awards while also keeping a short theatrical window before turnover to Netflix’s main priority: its paying subscribers. But there is a looming danger in continuing this approach. How many filmmakers of Scorsese’s stature will be willing to make movies for Netflix knowing they will see little placement in the cinema, or none at all?

“From the creative side this can be trouble,” says BoxOffice Chief Analyst Shawn Robbins. “Someone with [Scorsese’s] reputation and accomplishments... if his work isn’t the push to compromise it makes one wonder how many more directors will think, ‘Am I making theatrical movies or TV movies?’”

Prominent directors have already spoken to this point. Steven Spielberg went on a high-profile crusade against Netflix in a quest for “the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture.” And Netflix missed out on box office and pop culture phenomenon Crazy Rich Asians because director Jon Chu and the book’s author Kevin Kwan wanted “an old-fashioned cinematic experience, not for fans to sit in front of a TV and just press a button.”

Netflix would perhaps concede to the theaters more often if the demand for a three-month window wasn’t so stringent. Most movies after all make the majority of their money within the first few weeks, on par with Netflix’s request for 30 days. Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing movie of all-time, made $741 million of its $858 million domestic total to date by week three. The three-month window hails from a time before instantaneous digital availability, and so in that regard Netflix’s attempt to compromise at 30 days seems reasonable as the times change. But it’s a tough sell for the theater operators who have seen video stores and record stores wiped out by digital disruptors. Reducing the theatrical window by two-thirds is just a risk the big chains apparently aren’t willing to take.

Technological innovation may eventually win out. But, ironically, the innovation that has seen Netflix become one of the world’s foremost names in entertainment increases the pressure for something to give in this stalemate. Disney+ and HBO Max will arrive next year with alluring original content, increasing the competition. In a battle to win subscribers, Netflix will need to continue to push out top-tier content as frequently as possible. Waiting for theaters to get their share until it later arrives on Netflix is not good for business.

At the end of the day, Netflix lives and dies not off of Academy Awards or box office revenues, but its subscribers. “They demand the movies as soon as possible,” says Jeff Bock, a senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “They don’t want to wait months after the movie’s in theaters, that’s not what they signed up for for.” Could Netflix and the theater chains compromise in the middle of their demands—perhaps two months? “I don’t think Netflix subscribers are going to go for that,” Bock says. Not with Disney, Warner Media—and let’s not forget the new Apple TV+ and Amazon—waiting in the wings.

And so Netflix remains, for now, stuck in the middle between the people who make its content and the people who consume (and pay) for it. The company will certainly continue to make big movies with big stars and small cinemas will continue to screen them for Oscar eligibility. But for Netflix to truly take the leap to filmmaking powerhouse, the kind that releases cinematic events and wins Best Picture, its relationship with the movie chains will have to change—otherwise, it might not get another Martin Scorsese to make its movies.


这是因为斯科塞斯的这部新作《爱尔兰人》(The Irishman)将由Netflix发行。上周二有消息称,尽管谈判了好几个月,Netflix仍未能与AMC、Regal和Cinemark等主要电影院连锁达成协议,在院线大规模上映该片。这本身并不是Netflix的错;尽管该公司是一家流媒体服务公司,但它试图以30天的影院窗口期为限促成交易。不过,大型连锁电影院犹豫不决,他们更愿意选择传统的90天窗口期,以实现利润最大化。而且这样还能够保护他们不会因为有观众甘愿等几个礼拜等到电影在线上播出而损失票房。

Netflix仍然将在一些规模较小的独立影院放映《爱尔兰人》,该片将于11月1日上映,于27日上线流媒体,确保了该片仍然有资格竞逐奥斯卡奖。Netflix对阿方索·卡隆执导的《罗马》(Roma)也采取了同样的策略,该片获得了去年奥斯卡最佳外语片奖。Netflix似乎准备扩大这种策略,史蒂文·索德伯格的《自助洗衣店》(The Laundromat)、蒂莫西·查拉默主演的《国王》(The King)、导演诺亚·鲍姆巴赫的《婚姻故事》(Marriage Story)都将在今年秋季上线流媒体之前,在部分影院进行小规模放映。



已经有大导演谈到了这一点。史蒂文·斯皮尔伯格高调向Netflix发起声讨,希望“戏剧体验仍然能够成为我们文化中的重要部分”。Netflix错过了票房大赢家、现象级流行文化电影《摘金奇缘》(Crazy Rich Asians),因为导演朱浩伟和原著作者关凯文想要“一种老式的电影院观影体验,而不是让粉丝坐在电视机前,按下一个按钮。”

如果对三个月窗口期的要求不那么严格,Netflix可能会更多地向影院做出让步。其实,大多数电影在上映的头几周内就赚了大部分票房,这符合Netflix要求的30天窗口期。《复仇者联盟4:终局之战》(Avengers: Endgame)是史上票房最高的电影,截至第三周,该片8.58亿美元的国内总票房已经实现了7.41亿美元。三个月窗口期的做法来源于以前无法立刻在线上发布数字版电影的时期,因此从这个角度来看,随着时代的变化,Netflix试图达成30天的折中方案似乎是合理的。但对于那些目睹了视频公司和唱片公司被数字行业的颠覆者摧毁的影院运营商来说,他们难以接受。将影院期窗口减少三分之二显然是大型连锁影院不愿意承担的风险。

技术创新可能最终会胜出。但是,具有讽刺意味的是,Netflix的创新已经使其成为世界上几大娱乐巨头之一,从而加大了Netflix在僵局中让步的压力。迪士尼+和HBO Max将在明年推出吸引人的原创内容,进一步加剧了竞争。为了赢得用户,Netflix将需要继续尽可能多地推出顶级内容。等着影院挣够了他们的份额,才让影片上线Netflix,这不利于业务发展。

最终,Netflix的生死存亡并非取决于奥斯卡奖或票房收入,而是取决于它的订户。“他们要求尽快看到电影。”北美院线联盟(Exhibitor Relations)的资深票房分析师杰夫·博克表示。“他们不想在电影上映后还要再等几个月,这不是他们订阅付费会员的目的。”Netflix和连锁影院能否找到折中方案——也许两个月?博克说:“我认为Netflix的用户不会买账。”迪士尼、华纳媒体,我们不要忘了还有Apple TV+和亚马逊,都在虎视眈眈。





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