By Sahil Patel
Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos caused a little bit of a stir this weekend with his remarks during a keynote presentation at the Film Independent Forum in Los Angeles. Specifically, Sarandos criticized movie theater owners for stifling innovation — and thus hurting the movie business in general — by making it difficult for studios to distribute big-budget movies on Netflix the same day they premiere in theaters.
“The reason why we may enter this space and try to release some big movies ourselves this way, is because I’m concerned that as theater owners try to strangle innovation and distribution, not only are they going to kill theaters — they might kill movies,” he said.
Sarandos believes the current film business model of first-run theatrical releases followed by multiple different windows has turned movies into “these cold spectacles that have to be sold around the world in order to recoup these huge marketing and production budgets.”
“Think about this last summer, more movies with a production budget of over $75 million were released than ever before in the history of movies,” he added. “The result of that was a 6% lift in attendance.”
“Why not premiere movies on Netflix the same day they’re opening in theaters?” he said, making a point to add that he was also referring to “big movies,” and not just smaller, independent films, which are already looking at different types of distribution models.
“Why not follow with the consumer’s desire to watch things when they want, instead of spending tens of millions of dollars to advertise to people who may not live near a theater, and then make them wait for four or five months before they can even see it?” said Sarandos, in full swing. “They’re probably going to forget.”
Of course, according to Sarandos, it’s not the studios’ fault (after all, he has to do business with them). “I don’t blame the studios for what they’re doing and I don’t fault them, because the studios are always trying to innovate,” he said.
It’s an interesting speech, and something that definitely caught the eye of theater owners. Via Deadline, NATO president and CEO John Fithian said that it was actually services like Netflix which are killing the movie business. “Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well,” Fithian told Deadline. “The only business that would be helped by day-and-day release to Netflix is Netflix. If Hollywood did what Sarandos suggests, there wouldn’t be many movies left for Netflix’s customers or for anyone else. It makes absolutely no business sense to accelerate the release of the lowest value in the chain.”
In terms of actual news (sort of), Sarandos hinted at a third season for its Emmy-winning political drama “House of Cards.” Specifically, he said Netflix is currently in talks to add more seasons to the show, which originally received a two season, 26-episode order from the streaming service. The second season is set to debut on Netflix in 2014.
Here’s a video of Sarandos’ speech in full: