Theaters Playing Hardball Against Netflix & Weinstein’s ‘Crouching Tiger’ Strategy

By September 30, 2014
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This morning, I wrote about how Netflix and The Weinstein Company have teamed up to release a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on Netflix Instant and in IMAX theaters at the same time. At the time of publishing that piece, the Regal theater chain had refused to show the film in its IMAX theaters, but now according to Variety, Carmike, AMC, and Cinemark – along with Cineplex, Canada’s largest chain, and Cineworld, Europe’s second largest network of theaters – have joined Regal in that decision.

This is important because it stymies what Netflix and the Weinsteins are trying to do: see if there’s an audience who is willing to pay for a premium theatrical experience even when the same product is available to stream at home through a service most customers probably already have. The experiment won’t work if the theaters won’t allow the film to be shown in their IMAX theaters, but from the theater owners’ point of view, if the experiment doesn’t go their way, they won’t make any money from them. We’re at a critical point in film exhibition history right now with the digital revolution on our hands, and with audiences wanting to consume content how they want, when they want, theater owners are hanging on to the old way for dear life because they aren’t sure how to evolve with the times.

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There are plenty of reasons people don’t want to go to the theater anymore, including expensive ticket prices, annoying movie-watchers who text and talk throughout movies…you’ve been to a theater. You know what it’s like out there. But I’d argue that places like the Alamo Drafthouse, which enforce a strict “no talking, no texting” policy and provide high quality food in the theater, are ahead of the curve in figuring out ways to entice people to pay the money to experience movies on the big screen. If theater owners would start enforcing some basic rules of courtesy (like keeping people from texting), maybe audiences wouldn’t be so quick to stay home and watch a movie. Maybe people who love seeing movies on a big screen would actually be OK with paying higher prices for a great theatrical experience.

I completely understand why these theater chains are banding together to fight innovation like this (they’re trying to save their businesses, I get that), but it’s frustrating as a consumer to see obstacles put in the path of change that could ultimately reshape the theatrical experience into a better one for us in the end. What do you think?

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Ben is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. His work has been featured at ScreenRant.com, FirstShowing.net, MySpace.com, GeekTyrant.com, and many more sites across the web. Some of his favorite movies include The Rocketeer, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Tombstone, Lucky Number Slevin, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Collateral, Double Indemnity, Back to the Future and The Prestige. Follow him on Twitter: @BenPears.
  • Darth Slacker

    Really? I’m fine with going to a theater (even a Mid-night Opening night show) If I’m excited about the film BUT, honestly TV is SOOO Much Better! I can say that I do drive a few miles out of my way to goto a Cinemark theater (because they have discount days).AMC for all it bells & whistles is a rip-off and it’s too expensive. I’d pay extra to goto a place like Alamo Draft House but they don’t exist in my state. Hollywood needs to “Come to Us” and stop with the over-priced gimmicks (3-D glasses & such).