Netflix Is Making A Movie, But Does it Matter?

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Netflix has ordered its first ever original film. Since the streaming platform is fresh off of basically revolutionizing the way television gets made and distributed, everyone is freaking out — but is this really a big deal? Let’s discuss.

Why Is Everyone So Pumped? Netflix has ordered a sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Back in 2000 that martial arts film was a crossover hit that cleaned up at the box office and at the award shows. Fans are naturally excited at the mere mention of a sequel, even if it is coming out 15 years after the original. Still, a sequel to a successful movie isn’t exactly earth-shattering these days. What people are really losing their minds over is the possibility of Netflix getting into the film business.

The streaming platform that started off in the movie lending business has since gone on to huge waves in television with its growing roster of original shows. However, before Netflix got around to creating buzzy originals like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” it got its feet wet by relaunching a long dormant cult hit called “Arrested Development.” Film buffs and industry watchers are excited to see if Netflix can work that same magic on the hypothetical silver screen.

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Who’s Not So Thrilled? Probably the biggest spoilsports at this party are movie theater chains. The rise of online video means people have tons of entertainment at their fingertips and as a result, they’re going to the movies far less frequently. The film will be released on Netflix and in IMAX theatres on the same day, but chains like Regal, Cinemark and Carmike have all refused to screen it. This is part of a blanket policy on day-and-date released films. Theaters prefer not to screen any film that would have them competing with a home viewing option. Being the first place to see a new film is one of the last types of leverage theaters have over movie fans and they’re obviously not thrilled about letting it go.

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So is This A Big Deal? Yes and no. It’s a big deal that Netflix, which started out as an online version of a video rental store, now has the money and klout to order films of its own. There’s a real sense that the company has come full circle, invading the production side of the movie business even as they consider dropping DVDs from their service. The streaming platform has shown a real knack for picking cool projects for its television division, so if that talent carries over to film then some exciting things could be on the way. Still, it’s only a day-and-date release deal meaning that fans can still catch the movies in theaters if they want.

What theater owners don’t seem to understand is that it’s already possible to download almost any movie ahead of its theatrical release. People aren’t going to the movies to see films first; they’re going to see them as they were meant to be seen. An effects and action heavy movie like the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” sequel promises to be is still going to draw crowds to theaters who want to watch it in all of its IMAX glory. Netflix promises to be a new source of interesting, potentially even groundbreaking films, but it’s not the death blow to movie theaters that some critics are claiming.