Streaming giant Netflix is in talks to acquire a famous Hollywood landmark, the Egyptian Theatre, which would make it the streaming service's first brick and mortar movie theater. Currently owned by American Cinematheque, the building may soon be purchased by Netflix once the city permit specifics are finalized.
Located on Hollywood Boulevard, the Egyptian Theatre was opened by Sid Grauman in 1922, and famously hosted the first Hollywood premiere (Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks). In recent years, the American Cinematheque has run the Egyptian Theatre, along with the Aero Theatre across town in Santa Monica. The Egyptian Theatre is not only a historic Hollywood location - as it was officially designed as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1993 - but it’s a popular venue for modern film screenings, movie premieres, and industry events. Prior to the annual Golden Globe Awards, the Egyptian Theatre hosts a panel with filmmakers associated with the Best Foreign Language Film category. In addition, the Egyptian Theatre hosts numerous film-related events on a weekly basis from year to year, and the venue is a primary screening location for the annual TCM Classic Film Festival.
Per Deadline, Netflix is in talks to acquire the Egyptian Theatre from American Cinematheque. Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, is reportedly part of the Egyptian Theatre’s board, and “recused himself” from the voting process. As Deadline notes, the deal would not only benefit the historic theater financially, it would become even more relevant to the modern film industry, as Netflix would screen movies during the week and the venue's regular events would continue during the weekend. If Netflix does indeed buy the Egyptian Theatre, it would be the streaming service’s first acquisition of a brick and mortar movie theater, and also fuel the ongoing debate about streaming and theatrical distribution timelines for Oscar-nominated films.
In recent years, Netflix’s increasing relevance has been a point of discussion at Cannes, and they’ve also attracted the wrath of Steven Spielberg. In 2018, Spielberg suggested Netflix movies should qualify for Emmys, not Oscars - at least movies that have a limited theatrical run. At the 2019 Academy Awards, Alfonso Cuarón's Netflix film Roma was nominated for 10 awards, and won three for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography, and Best Director. As a result, major Hollywood figures both defended and criticized Netflix, with the distribution model being the major point of contention.
Now that Netflix is close to acquiring the Egyptian Theatre, the streaming service’s original films will undoubtedly have theatrical screenings on a consistent basis. But where else? Moving forward, it will be interesting to see which other movie theaters Netflix buys, and how they integrate Netflix-themed productions into weekly Hollywood events. While feature films are the primary point of emphasis, it’s also possible that Netflix will screen popular television series, thus allowing for all-day binges, at least theoretically. At the very least, Netflix will reinvigorate Hollywood Boulevard with its acquisition of arguably the most famous movie theatre in the world.