For Netflix, it’s movie theater owners – the entertainment distribution business that doesn’t want day-and-date movies to make their way to TV screens in any form. Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix, said recently that this current theatrical releasing model is “antiquated.”
The result can be a bad supply-and-demand situation. “This is probably driving piracy,” Sarandos added. “Give the consumers what they want -- and they will show up.” That means opening up the distribution windows so that more theatrical films can start their media life on the TV screen.
Give the movie industry credit -- it still pursues the “big event,” which for many means the big screen. Much is predicated on a scarcity theory that builds demand by holding back content. But is that missing a bigger picture?
Bringing new theatrical movies right to the TV screen is a no-brainer for consumers.
Sarandos repeated what many others have said: This is the golden age of television. He was talking about content, not necessarily new digital technology and equipment. He said supply and demand would still work for new movies that debut on the small screen, since there are far more buyers than sellers.
That’s especially true for character-driven movie dramas, which are increasingly harder to sell under the constraints of the traditional theatrical movie business, said Sarandos. (Major tentpole, action-adventure films are still the big revenue producers for the movie studios).
Why single out character-driven dramas? More than ever, that genre does really, really well with TV series, both broadcast and cable. There is no reason that fresh theatrical adult-skewing movies wouldn’t do just as well.
Studios should think about a different model. Sarandos said that this past summer there are 50% more theatrical films with budgets of $75 million and higher. But this only resulted in a 6% rise in attendance. “Studios have never done less with more,” he said.
Big spectacle movies have their current place in theaters. “Give them a great experience.” But what about choice? The effort to hold back theatrical content from TV might escalate in a few years and do bigger damage. “Not only might they kill theaters, they might kill movies,” Sarandos said.