Acrimony continues to permeat relations between Netflix and most major theater chains, now that AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike have all boycotted the release of Oscar-tipped African drama Beasts of No Nation following its $12 million acquisition by the streaming service.
The chains are reportedly incensed by Netflix’s desire to mount a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release for the title, about child soldiers in Africa, later this year, which would ignore the traditional 90-day berth between big and small screen openings. That means Beasts of No Nation may only receive a limited release via independent distributors. For one, Tim League, owner of the famed Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, has stated his intent to screen the picture.
Given the popularity of director Cary Fukunaga, who helmed the first season of HBO’s True Detective, and star Idris Elba, insiders expect Beasts of No Nation to secure somewhere between 200 and 250 screens even without the major chains involved.
Still, Netflix is facing a serious issue in the opposition from AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike. This isn’t the first time they’ve butted heads – the chains all immediately refused to screen Netflix’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel when it was announced last summer, though AMC took a backdoor approach by signing a deal with IMAX to debut it on that company’s screens and online simultaneously. If Netflix is to continue aggressively advance into feature film territory, though, it will have to find a way to ensure that theatrical releases are possible for its bigger titles.
It’s easy to see why the major chains are so against the Netflix release model. Theaters have traditionally offered audiences a chance to see movies inside their doors long before the titles are available for home viewing, but a day-and-date Netflix and theatrical release would give viewers little incentive to travel outside their homes and pay extra for tickets and concessions. With the streaming service snapping up A-list talent like Elba and Adam Sandler for its original film slate, though, a more permanent distribution strategy is surely in the works so as to avoid public standoffs like this one. In the case of Beasts of No Nation, a prestige pic, only a small theatrical berth will qualify it for Oscars, but some theaters will surely want a part of bigger pics down the line – the only question is, which chain will be the first to cave?