‘Crouching Tiger 2’ Fallout: AMC, Regal Won’t Play Imax Release

Michelle Yeoh in 'Crouching Tiger Hidden

Netflix, Imax and the Weinstein Co. are upending traditional release patterns for movies by debuting “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2” simultaneously in theaters and on streaming platforms.

It’s a revolutionary move, but the three partners may have trouble securing screens in the United States for the sequel to the martial-arts epic. Four of the largest theater chains in the U.S., including AMC, Cinemark, Carmike and Regal, tell Variety that they are refusing to screen any so-called day-and-date releases in their Imax theaters.

AMC Entertainment, the largest IMAX theater operator in the world, is the latest exhibitor to reject “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2.”

In a joint statement with Chinese parent company, Wanda, they said:  “No one has approached us to license this made-for-video sequel in the U.S. or China, so one must assume the screens IMAX committed are in science centers and aquariums.”

They’re joined by Cineplex, Canada’s largest chain, and Cineworld, Europe’s second largest network of theaters, which are also refusing to show the second “Crouching Tiger” if it premieres on Netflix at the same time it hits multiplexes.

Russ Nunley, a spokesman for Regal, said the company was committed to presenting movies “on a grand scale,” and would not be showing “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2” if it premieres on Netflix at the same time it debuts in theaters.

“While a homevideo release may be simultaneously performing in certain Imax locations, at Regal we will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to 3-inch wide on a smart phone,” said Nunley. “We believe the choice for truly enjoying a magnificent movie is clear.”

James Meredith a spokesman for Cinemark was terser, saying, “Cinemark does not play day-and-date movie releases on any of our screens including the Imax screens that we operate.”

And Carmike spokesman Robert Rinderman said, “We are committed to an exclusive theatrical release for the enjoyment of our valued guests. We are therefore opposed to showing day and date releases at our entertainment complexes.”

Mike Langdon, a Cineplex spokesman, argued that theaters remain the best way to see a movie and that the theatrical release window would be undermined if it agreed to screen the film.

“We continually invest in our theatres to ensure they provide the best movie-going experience possible, through ongoing upgrades such as stadium seating, digital projection, reserved seating, UltraAVX, 3D, Dolby Atmos sound systems and VIP Cinemas,” said Langdon. “We believe the theatrical window is an important component of the overall movie sales cycle. Playing movies ‘day and date’ with the release to home entertainment is not part of our strategy.”

“We bring our customers the IMAX experience as the complete opposite of home entertainment, which can be found on all sorts of smaller, every-day screens like the TV or smartphones and devices,” a Cineworld spokesman said. “We believe that the theatrical experience and IMAX, as one of its cornerstones, should be kept apart from home entertainment”.

The three Stateside chains’ refusal to show the day-and-date release means the “Crouching Tiger” follow-up won’t be screened on 115 of Imax’s 418 U.S. screens. Cineplex has 20 Imax screens and Cineworld is Europe’s largest operator for the brand.

Other theater chains and a spokeswoman for the Weinstein Co. did not respond to requests for comment or declined to make a statement.

Theater owners have fiercely resisted efforts by studios and distributors to shorten the window between a film’s theatrical release and its debut on home-entertainment platforms from the standard 90 days, especially for titles from major studios and wide releases. In 2011, Universal was forced to cancel a plan to release “Tower Heist” on cable VOD for $60 three weeks after hitting theaters after several exhibitors said they wouldn’t show the film. That same year, theater chains hit back after Warner Bros., Sony, Universal and 20th Century Fox announced plans to offer films via video-on-demand 60 days after their theatrical release.

Imax CEO Rich Gelfond said the company was not trying to endanger traditional theatrical release windows and had conversations with exhibitors in the lead-up to Monday’s announcement preparing them for the move on “a conceptual basis.”

Imax exerted its influence by convincing Netflix to change its original release date for the picture to Aug. 28, a weekend at the end of the summer that historically has been one of the slowest for ticket sales.

“As the world changes we have a duty to experiment with different things,” Gelfond said. “We knew that not everybody would support it. However, we felt that the ability to provide alternative content at a time of year when there is not a lot of great product coming in from the studios helps both our exhibition partners and consumers.”

Gelfond said he expects some U.S. chains will play the “Crouching Tiger” sequel, although the big prize will be China, where the company will have 200 screens by next year. Internationally, 60% of its revenue comes from overseas.

“It’s a modestly budgeted film that could do well in Asia,” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “It’s a great deal for Imax in China where Netflix doesn’t operate.”

Theater owners won’t be forced to show the picture. Imax has certain contractual rights that could require exhibitors to play its endorsed content, but in this instance has decided to waive them because of the sensitivity around windowing, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation.

“We’re not challenging windows,” Gelfond said. “We’re providing alternative content.

“I personally am convinced a number of exhibitors will play it and view it as a constructive test to supplement their business.”

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 21

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Pierre Edelman says:

    Pierre Edelman : There are 2 sides to this coin: Harvey is a great film buff & cinephile, on the other end, he enjoys bold experiments that can lead to big gains. I believe he should articulate, explain and make a STATEMENT about his strategy, which, in fact, is more a political move than a financial choice.

  2. Tig Byson says:

    If they’re so confident that theaters are the best way to enjoy movies, prove it. Show the film and beat the rivals at Netflix.

    That assumes, of course, that audiences haven’t had their fill of gross theaters, obnoxious patrons and overpriced…everything.

  3. aldoquevedo says:

    Reblogged this on Where's Aldo? and commented:
    New distribution models are not sitting well with Movieplex giants. But this is not a new move. Mark Cuban did the same (and even better, IMHO) in 2008.

  4. John Donnell says:

    Whoever coined the term “day and date” was a drunk idiot…. “SimulRelease”, “Screen and Stream Release”, “Theatrical Stream Release” are just three FAR BETTER options that I have quickly invented in the course of leaving this comment.

  5. Some guy says:

    With home TV and audio systems getting better and better, movie theatres are going to be obsolete. It sucks having to put up with driving to the theatre, badly placed seats if you didn’t preorder your tickets a week ago, overpriced concessions, annoying audience members sharing their ‘witty’ comments or not turning their phone off, and misaligned and poorly calibrated projectors. Oh, and those obnoxious local commercials that they’re putting before the movie now. I’d welcome a future without movie theatres.

    • stevenmillan says:

      Some Guy@ I can easily get your point,but both Hollywood and movies do sorely need the American movie theater as both a tradition and as a proper showcase to premiere and display movies,considering that STAR WARS:EPISODE 7 and AVENGERS 2 are going to soon be hot on the heels of major theatrical releases next year(which will send millions into the theaters) and that many people would rather see the upcoming CROUCHING TIGER,HIDDEN DRAGON sequel(as well as many other films,whether they be big budget or low budget) in theaters than on VOD,for I’m surprised that Sony/Columbia isn’t going to theatrically release this film given the major success of the first film instead of this idiotic shenanigan from The Weinstein Brothers(who have massively fallen in recent years) that will only bring pain to the fans(who eagerly wait to see this new film).

    • thecinemaguy says:

      You do realize that without movie theaters, the studios would makes less money? Companies are for-profit. The majority of ticket sales go to the studios after all. Why do you think concessions are so expensive and they are upgrading to premium experiences? So the movie theater can make more. Have you seen the margins they are operating on? Not high at all. Plus everyone can’t afford what would be needed to duplicate the experience at home and the needed streaming services. Going to the movies is about the experience going out with family and friends. You are probably a good example of the less and less social society. Nonetheless I can agree to disagree.

    • Some guy says:

      Someone sounds upset

  6. “…at Regal we will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to 3-inch wide on a smart phone,” said Nunley. “We believe the choice for truly enjoying a magnificent movie is clear.”

    Attn Regal: if you truly believed this, you would not be afraid of the simultaneous release; in fact, it would help prove your point even more. This was either a foolish response, or a lie.

    This is inevitable. Providing great technology and atmosphere for film is what will save the theater film-going experience. Small theaters with mediocre tech will (and should) die a horrible death.

  7. A. Smithee says:

    I wish the chains felt this strongly about the abomination that is digital IMAX. I might actually prefer watching on a tablet to the pixelated mess they’re trying to protect..

    • Thomas Lin says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Last time I saw an IMAX film it was like watching a movie through a screen door. Frankly watching on my TV at home is much better than the local IMAX, better picture and I don’t have to pay double the price of a movie to get screwed.

      Is only a matter of time until the theaters go the way of Blockbusters… Their model is horrible broken, and unless they offer the viewer something they can’t get at home they have no real purpose.

  8. First volley in what will end the theatres permanently. Careful #IMAX #Blockbuster

  9. cadavra says:

    Since almost all commercial IMAX screens are owned by those three chains, if AMC joins in they might as well not even bother.

  10. Donna grace says:

    Thanks to those theater chains for their integrity in protecting film productions.

    • Tig Byson says:

      The only thing they’re trying to protect is their own business interest. All at the expense of consumers.

    • John Shutt says:

      I agree. However, we also need talent to stand by the theaters like directors, actors, screenwriters and even producers if theaters are going to be taken seriously. I hope that talent that work in the industry will support thetheatrical experience

  11. Tobias says:

    “Internationally, 60% of its revenue comes from overseas.” – Ahhhh, the intern had an 18hr day, again.

  12. Dave Andrews says:

    Idiots. They’re going to put themselves out of business.

More Film News from Variety