You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Movie Theaters Can Co-Exist With Netflix, Filmmakers, Executives Argue

Movie theaters don’t need to be locked in mortal conflict with Netflix, a panel of exhibitors, filmmakers and studio suits argued at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday.

In fact, films such as “The Outlaw King” and “Bright” are welcome in multiplexes, National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian maintained.

“The movie theater door is open to Netflix,” said Fithian, who is the exhibition industry’s chief lobbyist. That invitation comes with an important caveat: Fithian wants Netflix to release its movies in theaters before offering them to their subscribers.

“Respect the models that work,” he said, noting that the box office is currently breaking records at the same time that Netflix’s stock is on a tear and subscription services are more popular than ever.

Fithian was joined on stage at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio by 20th Century Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson, “A Fantastic Woman” director Sebastián Lelio, “The Front Runner” producer Helen Estabrook, and Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob. The group argued that in the era of peak TV and binge-watching, cinemas are still vital.

“Filmmaking has always been about inspiration,” said Lelio. “I want to come out of cinema inspired. I want to be more hungry for life. I want to feel that energy.”

Aronson noted that movies have always been challenged by emerging forms of media — from television to video games — without ever dying off.

“Things have always changed, but they haven’t changed as fast as they are changing now,” said Aronson. “I look at streaming as yet another challenge. That challenge is one that we should be up to meeting…there is no tolerance for subpar films.”

Many of the people on the hour-long panel had skin in the game — they put a roof over their heads because people go to the movies. They maintained, however, that releasing a movie in theaters raises awareness and makes them more of events.

Though the panelists were supportive of the cinema experience, they had positive things to say about streaming services. Estabrook argued that the new platforms are enabling movies, particularly smaller films, to find audiences

“It has opened up ways for seeing more content,” said Estabrook.

As competition has intensified for audiences’ attention, studios are finally beginning to get the message that diversity can be a valid business strategy. The box office success of “Black Panther,” “Ocean’s 8,” and “Crazy Rich Asians” has demonstrated the power of casting women and minorities in starring roles. Lelio argued that “A Fantastic Woman,” which depicts a young transgender woman in Chile, was able to attract a bigger audience because it told a story that hadn’t been seen before on screen.

“For me, diversity should be the new normality,” said Lelio. “We should embrace the complexity of life, and diversity plays a big role in that.”

Despite the increased emphasis on having diverse casts, the panelists acknowledged that foreign films still struggle to connect with audiences. A big problem, they said, is the subtitles. People don’t want to read them.

What you’re seeing, Aronson argued, is “…the dumbing down of the audience.”

“When you look at the current political landscape, you understand that,” he added.


More Film

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content