In the short time that Netflix has been producing and releasing original movies, a couple of controversies have occasionally surfaced as a result. Will Netflix films emerge as Oscar contenders in competition with theatrical releases? And will the rise of streaming services with first-rate original films eventually challenge the existing model of theatrical distribution itself? Many major theater chains, fearing the latter, have boycotted the limited releases of Netflix films.

Thus far, though, this earthquake has failed to materialize. While various Netflix documentaries have gained Oscar eligibility and received nominations in the Best Documentary Feature category in the last two years, the first major feature that received a simultaneous Netflix/theatrical release, last year’s war drama Beasts of No Nation, failed to receive any Academy Award nominations, although Idris Elba was nominated for a Golden Globe. Now, it appears there’s been a new development in the Netflix/theatrical controversy.

Netflix has reached a deal with iPic, a chain of luxury theaters, to screen Netflix original films in Los Angeles and New York starting at the same time as their release, the Wall Street Journal reported. The deal gives iPic the option to also show the films in its other markets.

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New York and Los Angeles are important because of Oscar eligibility rules, which require films to screen in Los Angeles for at least seven days; in some categories, including documentaries, they must screen in both Los Angeles and New York. The deal specifically covers ten films, including two this month: The Irish war epic The Siege of Jadotville and the Christopher Guest comedy Mascots. Other upcoming major Netflix films include War Machine, the Brad Pitt military comedy/drama based on the work of the late journalist Michael Hastings, and the Angelina Jolie-directed film about Cambodia, First They Killed My Father. Adam Sandler is also in the middle of a multi-picture deal for Netflix-exclusive films, but those, alas, are not expected to get Oscar consideration.

With the iPic deal, Netflix and iPic are betting that upscale audiences will pay a premium – one beyond the price of their Netflix subscription or even a normal movie ticket – to see certain films on a big screen. This isn’t exactly a mass-market play, but if it makes future Netflix films more likely to get major Oscar attention in the near future, it will be worth it for the streaming giant. Of course, it’s worth it to point out that iPic is a relatively minor theater chain, one that’s not seen as a competitor to the likes of AMC and Regal of the world.

The first two iPic/Netflix releases, The Siege of Jadotville and Mascots, are scheduled for release October 7 and October 13, 2016, respectively.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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