Originally published to BNNBloomberg.ca on Nov. 14, 2019
Cineplex Inc. is willing to play Netflix Inc. original movies in its theatres, as long as the streaming service levels the playing field on exclusivity.
“We are very happy to play movies as long our partners follow the same rules as our other partners,” Cineplex chief executive officer Ellis Jacob told BNN Bloomberg in a Thursday interview.
“We’d be happy to play their movies and we’re always accommodating and speak(ing) with them. But, it’s very important that they observe the same window between theatrical release and streaming, like our other partners.”
Jacob’s comments coincide with the first week in the limited theatrical run of Martin Scorsese’s Jimmy Hoffa epic, The Irishman, which is absent from Cineplex’s screens ahead of its Nov. 27 release for home streaming. While its three-week cinematic run – currently being housed in the Toronto International Film Festival’s Toronto home – is longer than many previous Netflix offerings, it still pales in comparison to the industry standard of roughly three months between theatrical release and home video/on-demand releases.
“The big talk is about The Irishman,” Jacob said. “That ship has kind of sailed, but we continue to talk with Netflix about future product.”
The Irishman is another in a growing trend of high-profile films that Netflix has offered theatrically in limited engagements. Last year, The Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and the multiple-Oscar-though-not-Best-Picture-winning Roma, both saw smaller releases. The Irishman joins other potential awards-fodder from Netflix with limited cinematic runs this year, including Dolemite is My Name and The King, as well as the upcoming Marriage Story.
Jacobs’ comments also come the same week that The Walt Disney Company launched its Disney+ streaming service, which attracted over 10 million subscribers out of the gate and led the company’s shares to an all-time high.
However, Jacob is not concerned about increased competition from the streaming world, and cited an Ernst & Young study from January that found that streaming activity is actually higher from those who make an effort to see movies in theatres.
Cineplex’s third-quarter results released Thursday showed an eight-per-cent revenue jump year-over-year, aided in part by the success of Disney’s The Lion King and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. Both movies will find their eventual streaming homes on Disney+.
He added that his company’s online store is a mechanism for Cineplex to join in the streaming wars in its own right.
“Our store – [where] we have over 8,500 movies – now becomes one of those choices. It’s basically not a subscription model, it’s a pay-as-you-play model. So it’s a little bit different,” he said.
Jacobs added that streaming is not the first medium to threaten the livelihood of the multiplex.
“We’ve faced all of these challenges in the past,” he said. “When VCRs and all of the VHS (tapes), and then we went from one different [format] to the other, cable and things like that.”
“To me, streaming is just another delivery mechanism.”