The Major Theater Chains Won’t Play Netflix, But Fathom Already Points to a Compromise

IndieWire | 11/14/2019 | Staff
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It seems like the battle that will never be resolved: Netflix wants to screen its best films in top domestic theater circuits. The chains say, ‘Never! Not until you respect the 90-day theatrical window!’ And then Netflix says, ‘Never!’ And so it goes on, and on.

What if I were to tell you that theaters already screen movies without regard to their streaming dates? That they already have the solution to this seemingly intractable issue? In fact, they already own a well-established company that’s uniquely positioned to resolve it: It’s Fathom Events.

Greenwood - Colo - AMC - Regal - Cinemark

Based in Greenwood, Colo., and jointly owned by AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, when Fathom launched in 2013 it focused on broadcasting opera, stage shows, and other “live” events onto some of the 20,000 screens that the chains control in North America. Today, Fathom increasingly shows movies. Sometimes they’re classics, like Studio Ghibli’s “My Neighbor Totoro,” but they also have a brisk business in screening otherwise unreleased titles that lend themselves to limited but elevated play in about 600-800 theaters.

Last month, Rob Zombie’s Lionsgate release “3 From ****” showed September 16-18 in 667 theaters as a Fathom Event. It grossed $1.8 million, with a one-day encore in October bringing the total to $2.1 million. Then, on October 15 — 29 days after its debut — it could be rented on iTunes, Amazon, and VOD. October 21 saw the one-day release of Quentin Tarantino documentary “QT8: The First Eight.” On December 3, 43 days later, it will be available at home.

****

“Three from ****”

So why not Netflix? What is different, beyond Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” being far superior films (no disrespect, Mr. Zombie) that would generate significantly higher revenues? Theaters get to reinforce their position as superior, first-position movie platforms. Netflix gets exposure to a limited audience for...
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