Since 1997, Netflix has been making headlines with its willingness to change and innovate. The company beat out Blockbuster and other video rental companies and almost singlehandedly pioneered the online streaming industry. Now, Netflix produces and releases its own shows—hits like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black—and movies. It is most popular among high school and college students and makes up nearly 37% of the US’s total bandwidth usage at peak hours. It also made the term “binge-watching” popular. It’s no small wonder that Netflix is the future of the entertainment industry.
Netflix came into being when Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings, the founders of the company, came together and thought about how they could revolutionize the rental business. From there, Netflix was exclusively a DVD distribution company, boasting no due dates and no late fees. That system worked for a while and then they converted into a half rental, half online streaming service. Blockbuster actually had the chance to buy Netflix for just $50 million, but they declined. Now, the company is worth so much more, while Blockbuster is a thing of the past. Netflix is mainly online streaming while its physical DVD rental business is slowly becoming outdated. With over thousands of titles to choose from, Netflix is looking to not just showcase movies after they’ve been released in theaters—they’re looking to have big name movies premiere on their site.
As you can imagine, this hasn’t gone over so well with the major studios and theater chains. They are afraid that consumers will no longer have a need for them if Netflix intrudes on their business. Some have even attempted to boycott certain films that Netflix is premiering on their site. Regal, AMC, Cinemark, and others are refusing to show films like Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, and the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon set to come out later this summer. These movies were set to premiere simultaneously on both Netflix and in theaters, but the major chains are saying no, they will not show them if they do not have exclusive rights. Traditionally, films are shown in theaters for about ninety days before being released to video, but with the premiere also happening on Netflix, this could potentially cause the theaters to lose a huge chunk of their revenue in ticket and concession sales. It’s understandable that they would be upset, but maybe Netflix isn’t a threat, just the way forward.
Big name stars have realized what a great opportunity Netflix really is. Idris Elba’s movie Beasts of No Nation is being released on Netflix and theaters at the same time, and it’s already generating Oscar buzz, despite being boycotted by major theater chains. It doesn’t need a wide release to be nominated and a small theater chain, The Alamo Drafthouse, stepped up and announced that they would still show the movie. Adam Sandler has signed a four movie deal with Netflix and the Wachowskis recently released their new show, Sense8, on the website. Marvel made a five-show deal with Netflix where all five shows on the site will be interconnected and ultimately tie into the greater MCU. Marvel’s Daredevil—which premiered back in April—just won IGN’s Best Comic Book TV Series poll and is one of the highest rated Marvel owned property.
Most recently, however, Brad Pitt and Netflix struck a $30 million deal for the rights to Pitt’s upcoming political satire War Machine. This is Netflix’s most expensive deal to date and it will be streamed on the site as well as played in theaters. Pitt said in an interview, “We are so excited to be a part of the inspiring commitment by Netflix to produce cutting-edge content and to deliver it to a global audience.” While Pitt is an A-list actor and Hollywood’s darling, this deal with Netflix is giving him the freedom to branch out and try other genres of film you wouldn’t typically see him do. With his move to Netflix, other actors and actresses may be inspired to follow, maybe even causing the entertainment industry to diversify while TV networks and film studios try to keep up with the changing landscape. It’s uncertain at the moment whether or not the major theater chains will boycott this movie like they have for Beasts of No Nation and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny, but if the theater industry wants to survive, they will eventually have to cooperate with Netflix. Or risk being steamrolled by innovation.
This article was written by Halley Dewey, a writer for dusk magazine.