You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NATO Chief Says Streaming Services Benefit From Theatrical Releases

CinemaCon, the annual exhibition industry trade show unfolding this week in Las Vegas, has threatened to be overshadowed by ongoing tensions between theater owners and Netflix.

Without mentioning the streaming giant by name, John Fithian, head of the theater business’s main lobbying firm, argued in public remarks that the two business models can be complementary, not cannibalistic. Netflix has been flirting with releasing its movies in theaters, but most major chains are refusing to show the films because they debut on the streaming services within a few weeks of their premiere in cinemas.

That’s a mistake, argued Fithian, the CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). He said that theatrical exhibition raises the profile of films from Netflix or any other streaming service.

“We understand that some movies will continue to go straight to the home and skip theatrical,” Fithian told an audience that was primarily comprised of theater owners and exhibition executives. “There is nothing revolutionary about that idea. All we ask is that powerful movies in all genres, made by content creators who want their work on the big screen, be given the time to reach their full potential in theaters before heading to the home. Theatrical exhibition is the keystone of this industry, and there is no replacement — both artistically and commercially — for the impact of a break‐out hit.”

The debate will likely intensify as companies such as Disney, Comcast, and WarnerMedia launch their own streaming services in the coming months. They hope to tap into the growing audience for digital video and to curb Netflix’s explosive growth by providing subscribers with more alternatives. At the same time, services such as Amazon, that once deployed traditional theatrical releases, are flirting with releasing movies direct-to-streaming or with more truncated runs in cinemas. Fithian suggested that approach was flawed.

“As large media companies look to establish direct relationships with consumers through streaming platforms — and the options in the home grow — competition for directors and stars who want their work seen on the big screen will only intensify,” he said. “In this new climate it’s important to ask: how does any given movie stand out among endless choices in the home? Everyone in this room knows the answer to that question: a robust theatrical release provides a level of prestige to a movie that CANNOT be replicated.”

Fithian said that research indicates that consumers who enjoy streaming movies also buy tickets to see films on the big screen. NATO conducted a study with Ernst & Young that found that people who attended movies in theaters more frequently also tended to consume more streaming content.

“For every race and age demographic, average streaming hours per week was higher for respondents who visited a movie theater nine times per year or more compared to those who visited a theater only once or twice,” said Fithian. “Streaming and theatrical don’t just co‐exist, they reinforce each other.”

Even as Netflix continues to grow in size and influence, theatrical revenues reached record levels in 2018. Attendance is more or less flat, but revenue has increased due to higher ticket prices. Fithian also argued that the business is benefiting because studios are making movies such as “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” that are centered on protagonists who are female or people of color.

“Diversity in front of — and behind — the camera was a key driver,” said Fithian. “Moviegoers sent a clear message that they want to see themselves represented on the big screen by characters that are realistic and well‐rounded. While there is still room for progress, we are encouraged by how studios and content creators continue this mission with exciting projects set to open in 2019 and beyond.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • La Rouei

    Lumiere Festival to Premiere Epic Restoration of 'La Roue'

    LYON, France  —  This coming Saturday and Sunday, the Lumière Festival will turn back the clock nearly one hundred years as the festival premieres a new completed reconstruction of Abel Gance’s 1923 masterpiece “La Roue” (“The Wheel”) that restores the classic to its original 7.5 hour length. Consisting of a prologue and four movements, “La [...]

  • Lina Wertmuller portrait

    Lina Wertmuller’s Exceptional Career Revisited

    In the still American-led realm of the Academy Awards, it’s unusual for the helmer of a film not in the English language to score a Best Director nomination. It’s far rarer still, meanwhile, for a woman to be nominated in the category at all: just five have done so in 91 years. Only one director, [...]

  • Fifth Seal

    Lumière Festival Honors Hungary, Screens Classics ‘Women,’ ‘The Fifth Seal’

    For the fifth year running, Lyon’s Lumière Festival will honor Hungarian cinema and invite guests of the Hungarian National Film Fund to present two classic Hungarian films from important national filmmakers, Márta Mészáros’ “Ők ketten” (“Women”) and Zoltán Fábri’s “Fifth Seal.” Both films will be presented by Lumière Festival special guest Marina Vlady on Oct [...]

  • Godzilla

    Criterion Collection President Peter Becker on Storytelling, Bergman vs Godzilla, B-movies

    LYON, France  —  The Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) kicked off on Tuesday in Lyon, France, with a keynote address by Criterion Collection President Peter Becker. The exec discussed the company’s storied history and evolution over the decades into a leading publisher of classic and contemporary films from around the world in high-quality [...]

  • Manuel Chiche

    Boutique Distributor Manuel Chiche Offers A State of The Industry

    LYON, France  — Manuel Chiche is riding high. Since June, his boutique distribution outlet The Jokers set admission records with Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” selling nearly 1.7 million tickets in France and still going strong as the film heads into its 19th week in theaters. Indeed, “Parasite” is now the second most successful Palme d’Or winner of [...]

  • Toni

    Italy’s L'Immagine Ritrovata Expected to Take Over France’s Eclair Cinema

    LYON, France  —  Leading Italian restoration company L’Immagine Ritrovata’s acquisition of renowned film lab Eclair Cinéma, announced last month, is expected to be approved by the French Commercial Court of Nanterre at the end of November or beginning of December, according to a source familiar with the deal. L’Immagine Ritrovata’s French subsidiary, L’Image Retrouvée, last [...]

  • Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

    Film Review: 'Jay and Silent Bob Reboot'

    In a film culture overrun by Marvel epics, wild-stunt action flicks, and other grandiose juvenilia, it is often said that the mid-budget, script-driven movie for adults is becoming a thing of the past. But don’t tell that to Kevin Smith, whose “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” a shaggy antic throwaway that premiered Tuesday in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content