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

  • 'All These Small Moments' Review

    Film Review: 'All These Small Moments'

    The magic of writer-director Melissa B. Miller Costanzo’s “All These Small Moments” can be found within the intimacy of the scenarios, the authenticity of her earnest characterizations, and the accessibility of the actors’ honest performances. In her deftly polished directorial debut, Costanzo dovetails the primary story about a teen’s coming of age with a secondary [...]

  • Bruce Tufeld Dead: Hollywood Agent and

    Hollywood Agent and Manager Bruce Tufeld Dies at 66

    Bruce Tufeld, a Hollywood agent and manager who once repped stars like Rob Lowe, Laura Dern, and Kelsey Grammer, died Tuesday in Los Angeles as a result of complications from liver cancer. He was 66. The son of respected television announcer Richard “Dick” Tufeld and Adrienne Tufeld, Bruce began his career as an assistant at ICM [...]

  • Bruce Dern

    Film News Roundup: Bruce Dern's 'The Lears' Bought by Vertical for February Release

    In today’s film news roundup, Bruce Dern’s “The Lears” and “Angels Are Made of Light” are acquired, Cold War drama “Stanley Cage” is launched and a documentary about Madonna’s early music career gets a release. ACQUISITIONS Vertical Entertainment has acquired North American rights from NeoClassics Films to “The Lears,” starring Bruce Dern in a modern-day [...]

  • Octavia Spencer Bryce Dallas Howard

    Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard to Reunite for Comedy 'Fairy Tale Ending'

    Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard will reunite for the ensemble comedy “Fairy Tale Ending.” Jim Hecht (“Ice Age: The Meltdown) and Tracy McMillan (“Marvel’s Runaways”) are writing the screenplay. Howard will also produce the Universal movie through her Nine Muses Entertainment alongside Eric Carlson and Susan Carlson. Seth MacFarlane and Erica Huggins will produce [...]

  • Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at DuArt

    Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at New York's DuArt Film Labs, Dies at 88

    Robert Smith, a longtime executive with New York’s DuArt Film Labs, died Jan. 11 in Montvale, N.J. He was 88. Smith spent some 62 years with DuArt, the film processing and post-production facility founded in 1922 in the penthouse of an automobile garage in Midtown. Smith rose to president of DuArt before retiring in 2015. [...]

  • Bird Box

    Los Angeles On-Location Feature Filming Surges 12.2% in 2018

    On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles expanded impressively in 2018, gaining 12.2% to 4,377 shooting days, according to FilmL.A. Production activity for feature films rose 15.5% to 1,078 shooting days during the fourth quarter, with 146 days coming from projects receiving California tax credits — including Netflix’s “Bird Box,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content