U.S.

Theater Chains Dismiss Netflix-Imax Movie Plan

AMC, Regal and Cinemark have announced they will boycott Netflix's planned feature film debut, a sequel to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Theater Chains Dismiss Netflix-Imax Movie Plan
Dick Thomas Johnson / CC BY 2.0
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Well, that didn't take long. Shortly after Netflix announced it was teaming up with Imax and The Weinstein Company to debut its first original movie in theaters and at home, cinema companies fired back by saying they'll refuse to show it.

AMC, Regal, and Cinemark all responded to Netflix's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" sequel by saying they plan to boycott it in their theaters. 

By releasing "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend" at both Imax theaters and at home at the same time, Netflix and company would be turning the typical "theater release to home release" window on its head.

Not that it hasn't been done before. Indie films like "Arbitrage" and "Drinking Buddies" were both released the same day in theaters and at home on demand, with those watching at home paying through either iTunes or cable companies.

But "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was a major movie, and its sequel has big potential. Plus, what's new is the Netflix distribution here. 

AMC released a statement justifying its boycott, saying it decides what shows in its Imax theaters and any Imax screens committed to showing the new movie must be in science centers or aquariums.

Regal responded likewise with a spokesman saying the company "will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to three-inch wide on a smartphone."

And the boycott isn't limited to the States, either, with Canadian cinema company Cineplex and the European Cineworld both joining in as well. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, AMC, Regal and Cinemark alone own 247 of the 400 Imax locations in North America. And as the companies revealed in their statements, they are under no obligation to show the movies Imax wants them to screen.

But is Netflix's new movie venture really something cinema companies need to worry about? 

Imax's CEO Rich Gelfond, who was optimistic about the experiment when it was originally announced, told Deadline since the movie is being released Aug. 28 — the worst box office weekend of the year — companies should reconsider:

"We would not have done this release if there were competitive Hollywood blockbusters at that time. ... The thought was, when you have a weak shoulder period, why not try something different?"

And it turns out the cinemas' response might do more harm than good in the long run, at least according to one analyst.

Christopher Campbell at Film School Rejects says if the direct-to-video format Netflix and Imax are experimenting with becomes profitable in the future, then theater chains like AMC will get burned by not adapting to it. 

Something an analyst who spoke with Variety seems to agree with, saying, "The reality is that the future is going to be a lot different in the way that movies are consumed."

This video includes images from Getty Images, Faruk Ateş / CC BY 2.0June Marie / CC BY NC 2.0 and Martin Pettitt / CC BY 2.0.