Theaters and streaming services have always felt threatened by each other and have subsequently become bitter rivals, but perhaps a new partnership will remedy this historic feud and create one satisfying viewing experience for all to enjoy.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond has revealed he's been in talks with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon to screen their original content in his theaters. While these services have begun increasingly streaming content with some of Hollywood's top stars, "there's not an opening day," Gelfond said. "The number one way to event-size the size [of a movie] is in IMAX."
While speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference on Wednesday, he explained these services understand the untapped potential of screening their films in a chain theater, especially considering how much money goes into creating the pictures.
"It's inevitable that these big blockbusters that people are spending all this money on are going to have a theatrical release, and I think almost certainly an IMAX release," Gelfond said.
The friction between theater chains and streaming services isn't completely unwarranted. Domestic theater audiences attendance in 2017 saw a major decrease and dropped to a 25-year low. It seems more people are turning to monthly subscription streaming services as their main source for entertainment, rather than spending that same amount of money just to watch one film in theaters.
In recent years, these services have begun producing their own original content, creating movies, series, and documentaries that are exclusive to their own platforms. While Netflix, in particular, has screened its original films in theaters before, it waits until the movie has been released on its own site first before sending it to the big screen. It was this strict policy that got Netflix banned from the Cannes Film Festival this year because it debuts its films on its service rather than in theaters.
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Perhaps in a move to avoid similar issues, it was reported that Netflix was considering purchasing theaters to exclusively stream its movies to audiences. However, we haven't seen any progress on this movement so far and likely won't if the deal between IMAX and streaming services follows through.
In fact, this wouldn't be the first time Netflix has partnered with IMAX to screen its movies. In 2016, the two collaborated to show Netflix's film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny on screens in select New Jersey and California suburbs. However, the exact box office numbers for this collaboration have never been reported.
Now, the question remains: just how successful would this deal really be?
From the point of view of those already subscribed to streaming services, it doesn't seem very practical to pay to go see a movie you've already paid to have streamed to your devices. So if theaters were to begin to play these original productions, they would likely see smaller audience numbers than they're used to.
That being said, IMAX is known for its superior theater experience, which rivals even regular cinemas, let alone a home theater set-up. This just may prove to be enough reason for people to ditch their couches and microwave popcorn in favor of that incomparable theater experience.
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