Major Theater Chains to Boycott Netflix’s ‘Beasts of No Nation’

AMC, Regal, Carmike won't show Netflix's

Major theater chains are refusing to show “Beasts of No Nation,” the Cary Fukunaga drama that Netflix bought this week for $12 million, because the company is debuting the film simultaneously on its streaming service.

The country’s four largest exhibitors — AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike — separately told Variety that they do not plan to show the drama about child soldiers in Africa because they do not want to provide screens to films that do not honor what is typically a 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release.

In a release touting the deal, Netflix said the picture will have a qualifying run for Oscar consideration in “select theaters” later this year — language that seemed to acknowledge that “Beasts of No Nation” will have trouble securing a berth in many theaters. After all, there’s a precedent. When Netflix announced last fall that it will partner with the Weinstein Company and Imax on a sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” most exhibitors refused to show the film.

Not everyone has a problem with the concept of simultaneous home entertainment and theatrical releases. The Alamo Drafthouse, an independent chain with 19 theaters in such states as Texas, New York and California, said it will screen the picture.

“I’m agnostic about this sort of thing,” said Tim League, the company’s CEO and founder. “I look at films I want to play and I play them regardless of the release strategy.”

League noted that Alamo Drafthouse had success showing “Snowpiercer,” even though that science-fiction adventure debuted last summer on-demand while it was still in theaters.

“I don’t look at myself as a competitor to Netflix,” said League. “I think that argument is a little bit of a red herring. I watch a lot of movies at home, but there comes a time where I want to get out of the house. I look at cinemas as one of those options that compete with restaurants or baseball games or all of those things I can’t do in my living room.”

Insiders say “Beasts of No Nation” could get exhibited at roughly 200 to 250 arthouse and independent theaters. Fukunaga’s success on “True Detective” made him a favorite with artistic-minded viewers and star Idris Elba has a following.

The film could have had a more traditional release plan. Netflix beat out specialty distributors such as Focus and Fox Searchlight for rights to the picture because its backers felt that the company offered a larger audience for the film.

“This movie will have the muscle of Netflix behind it,” said Amy Kaufman, a producer on the film. “It will definitely be seen by a lot more and different kinds of people through Netflix than it would have through a traditional platform.”

Kaufman argues that the quality of Netflix shows and documentaries such as “House of Cards” and “Virunga,” as well as television programming like HBO’s “True Detective,” is altering people’s perceptions of where and how they consume content.

“It could be a game changer,” she said. “This has the potential to change the way people perceive how movies and art are delivered to them.”

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  1. i would never go to a theatre to pay to watch something I could watch at home… shit I would rather watch a cam than pay 12 dollars for one movie

  2. Hans says:

    If theaters choose not to show good content (assuming it’s good), then they’re digging their own graves. Relying on exclusivity as the sole incentive to get people to get out of the house is doomed. Theaters either need to make themselves relevant, or technology will treat them just as it has the newspapers, buggy-whips, etc. Netflix is hardly the beginning.

  3. The country’s four largest exhibitors — AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike — separately told Variety that they do not plan to show the drama about child soldiers in Africa because they do not want to provide screens to films that do not honor what is typically a 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release.

    What a bunch of bulls***.

  4. Chris says:

    This seems like it could be an antitrust issue.

  5. u4rick says:

    I don’t understand problem. Release film in Cinemas. Move to VOD 3 months later – no brainer and win-win for all.

    • kingdc says:

      Video is now on demand at the time of release no matter what due to a little thing called piracy. Netflix’s way, at least a lot of people will pay them instead of watching it for free.

    • drshakalulu says:

      Because that is not how people consume content anymore. Movies are expensive. Food/drinks at movie theaters are expensive. Thanks to in-home theater setups, many movies are no different in a theater than on your couch. This is another case of the bigwigs at the top being completely oblivious to their customers and their habits.

  6. Vicky says:

    If snowpeircer is an example of Netflix quality–no wonder people stayed away. It’s truly awful.

  7. vidiot says:

    These comments suggests, that the marketplace is healthy, when we have choices like Netflix and Theaters. We have a very busy family, lots of moving parts. It is a major effort, to get the family together, and head to a theater. Not usually worth it. We are grateful for #Netflix, that lets us watch films in the comfort of our home. Movie ‘dates’, are few and far between right now. Perhaps Netflix will open up their own ‘pop up’ #Netflix branded theaters (theater within a theater). This venue could even be in a unique location, such as a performing arts venue, that has an appropriate screen capability. Digital film is the grand equalizer. And they would have a limited engagement, for their films. Thereby, qualifying for Oscars. Perhaps the ‘sea change’, is that the film distribution cabal + theater chain (gangs), no longer have the strong arm they once had. I see this as a great thing. We will begin to see small, independently made films, that otherwise, would not have seen the light of day.

  8. David Gunter says:

    “Watching movies on NetFlix does not compare to the Cinema experience.” I agree with this statement, but for much different reasons.

    I have a wonderfully quiet TV room, a 65-in screen and terrific sound system. Watching movies at home means I’m not shelling out $22 for my wife and I to watch the film. I’m not putting up with crowded theatres, over-priced snacks, the inevitable one or two text messages or phone rings during the film, etc.

    I much prefer to watch films at home these days unless there is something that truly calls out for a massive screen size.

    If moves are going to debut online the same day they debut in the theatre, the theatres will lose most of the time, and I’m fine with that.

    • u4rick says:

      For me it’s the large crowd that creates the magic. The collective attention/concentration adds a special element for me. Yes, sometimes there are distractions, but not nearly as many as I find in my home. I don’t mind paying more for my snacks at the movies, because I somehow enjoy them more. It’s similar to paying for a cocktail in a restaurant – just seems better to me.

      • Del4o says:

        I don’t know if it is just me but why you Americans always connect snacks with the movie going experience. I find it rather disturbing when everybody around me chews on popcorn…

        No offence meant :)

  9. u4rick says:

    Watching movies on NetFlix does not compare to the Cinema experience. For instance, I’m a fan of serious films like BOYHOOD. I loved this movie on the BIG screen; viewing it on Netflix sucked, I could barely get through it, same thing with SNOWPIERCER. Movies are vastly BETTER when viewed in the CINEMA – no question about it.

  10. nerdrage says:

    Screw theater chains. Netflix has the right idea – simultaneous streaming and theatrical release. This will help tamp down piracy (never end it, there are always amoral people who want something for nothing) and give a boost to a “little” art film that otherwise would get bumped off the marquee by the spandex crowd.

    Theaters are destined to become more and more like video game/amusement parks (just wait till VR is ready for prime time), continuing the trajectory they’re on now, where the money is in zap-bang-pow type movies. The Oscar-bait kind of movie will be released first on streaming, probably never go to the theaters, and survive just fine alongside the serialized stories (aka TV shows) that will also be only ever released on streaming when broadcast and cable go bust.

    Netflix has seen the future and is preparing for it – creating it, really. What is Hollywood doing? The words “rearrange,” “deck chairs” and “Titanic” spring to mind…

  11. drjabberwocky says:

    Netflix should become an exhibitor soon. The company should really invest on that.

    • nerdrage says:

      Brick & motor theaters? Nah. They should continue what they’re doing now – becoming the premiere streaming service for the entire world. Movie theaters will be a specialty service for people who want an overwhelming sensory experience of superheroes battling giant robots in outer space.

  12. David says:

    Kaufman is right, being on Netflix will give it a bigger audience and that’s something indies need

  13. jose says:

    who cares to go to a movie theater when we have better image and sound right in our house and on demand. Netflix is the way to

  14. Meets the Eye says:

    And the film will be pirated in a perfect copy two hours after Netflix debuts it.

    • nerdrage says:

      So what? If piracy was going to kill off Netflix, they’d be dead by now. Piracy is really just a hobby. Most grownups with jobs and busy lives don’t have time to mess with it. They want a nice, easy to use interface, not some zany system where the Swedish police can ruin your fun.

  15. Jim Pfeiffer says:

    Instead of resisting change they should be embracing it and surviving by seeing what is needed in this new paradigm and be in the front of the need with the answers and products. Those dinosaurs who don’t will soon find themselves obsolete playing at best catch up and following in the line instead of leading it….Blockbuster thought they would out last streaming as well?….they found themselves in the back of the line running to catch up

  16. Lily says:

    This just seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face. There are probably still a lot of people that don’t use Netflix and still watch movies, and there are people like me that have Netflix and still want to to go to the movies. Technically I have access to every movie ever made, and I still go to the theaters whenever I can. It’s the experience, it’s the popcorn, it’s the big theater screen, and by ‘boycotting’ it, you’re just losing money. It’s stupid at this point to look down your nose at Netflix, it’s obviously more than an underdog or an upstart. Work in tandem with them instead of working against them and things will run smoother for everyone.

  17. Joe says:

    Most movies today are video, not film.

    • M says:

      Exactly! If you’re going to see a digital video, you might as well just watch it in the comfort of your own home.

  18. tommyflorida says:

    Attention big guys, going to the movies is more about getting out of the house and being social than the actual film being shown. You would think you big guys would understand this by now!

    • nerdrage says:

      Bingo. And it’s also about the overwhelming sensory experience that a movie theater can provide and simply can’t be reproduced at home unless you are independently wealthy. Gravity and Interstellar are examples of movies that really need a big screen treatment.

      High-profile superhero/fantasy/sci fi franchises also benefit from theaters, and are a social event because everybody knows about Captain America 3 or Star Trek VII and fans anticipate them a year or more in advance.

      But a movie like Beasts of No Nation, that isn’t a social experience or a fanboy experience, will get lost at the theater, so just go straight to streaming and have done with it. The only reason for a theatrical release is to qualify for the Oscars. Netflix wants to show it can win Oscars as well as Emmys, even if they have to start with the “little” awards…

  19. Stringer Bell says:

    Only a big commercial movie hit can be a “game changer” in this space, not a specialty drama with Idris Elba about African revolutionaries (or whatever it is). I’m sure it’s a great film and I love Elba and I would personally go see it if it was recommended by friends, but this kind of film would never be a $100 million blockbuster for a general audience, probably not even a $50 million grosser, and that’s the only thing that will sway the minds of studios and theater chains.

    For better or worse, we’re still in the experimental phase with the theatrical/streaming dual platforming model, and it won’t truly break through and break the back (so to speak) of theater chains until a studio puts a major commercial movie into this pipeline. “The Interview” was a special case, not to be replicated.

    • John Shutt says:

      Probably the most mature post on this page thus far on the issue. The only way I think it could be a game changer is if it gets major awards nominations and even if the Netflix guys push for it, it could be difficult.

  20. fatalreview says:

    oh here they go again trying to fight the inevitable Netflix has the perfect viewing system trouble is it doesn’t line a bunch of greedy a-holes pockets in the excessive gravy train manner to which they are accustomed PLUS it eliminates the commercial game for $$$- they actually think they can stop the popularity of Netflix -sorry a-holes Netflix is here to stay and is the publics popular choice in viewing EVEN WITh all your bans and with holding streaming rights-can’t stop it-your jerk wad way of doing business has been shown for the scam that it is so you lose no matter what power play you try and pull-since movies ONLY EXIST because the public wants to watch them -then the favored viewing platform for movies will win in the end-start shivering and quaking dinosaurs-the buck stops here

  21. G. says:

    I assure you really good films with true box office potential are NOT going to end up on NETFLIX concurrently or before theatrical distribution. This film is likely not that good or seen as having limited general appeal. Interesting that without a theatrical release they aren’t even eligible for many awards. The Emmy’s don’t seem to have a problem with it. I also point out that NETFLIX is operating on a ‘loss leader’ scenario where offering this sort of thing allows them to entice new subscriptions but is rarely worth the money spent (like super cheap detergent at WalMart … get them in the door at a loss and hope they buy something else and keep visiting) The reality is these producers will never know how many people actually watched their film on Netflix but they’ll have $12M to placate them.

    • nerdrage says:

      The movies that won’t end up on Netflix simultaneous with theatrical release are Captain America 3, Star Wars VII, Transformers, Ghostbusterettes, more Hunger Games, etc. The big name franchises. Movie theaters make their money off that stuff. Some little arty no-name, non-franchise movie will get lost in the shuffle, and would benefit from greater exposure on streaming. Whether you think one group is the “good movie” group depends on your taste, but the Oscars always votes for the latter.

      PS you’re getting Netflix mixed up with Amazon, they’re the ones that sell people stuff.

  22. In related news, theatergoers boycott major theater chains in lieu of Netflix on their fucking couch.

  23. BBm says:

    We used to say direct-to-video now it is direct-to-streaming. $12 mil. I am not sure if Netflix will get its money back on this one. But I guess they are trying to change people’s habits and force the industry’s hand. Not sure they will be successful if studios are against that change. It will probably only be expensive one-offs (Crouching Tiger, Beast of No Nation…).

  24. The Kingslayer says:

    Theater chains just need to accept that this is the future of movies.

  25. Tom says:

    Why does Netflix have to stream at the same time?

    • Because that’s what makes them who they are. They want to empower their customers and respect them by giving them a choice. Watch one a week if you want, watch them all if you want. See it on your couch or theater if you want. The more accurate question would be why WOULDN’T they put it online if it’s ready for their customers to view and appreciate?

    • RatBasterd says:

      Good question.

      • nerdrage says:

        Answer: because they have subscribers who pay them to see stuff, and they’re using those subscriptions to fund their purchase of movies such as this one. It would be profoundly disrespectful of Netflix not to put their paying customers FIRST. Netflix has an ongoing relationship with their subscribers and the same is not true of some random person who buys a ticket in the movie theater.

  26. Danofive0 says:

    Big Deal… Next!

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