Netflix has rejected showing its movies at some willing theaters, and Hollywood insiders don’t understand why

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Would “Mudbound” found more award season success if Netflix ran at theaters it owned?
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Netflix

  • Netflix briefly considered acquiring Landmark Theatres, according to the Los Angeles Times.
  • The move would have allowed the streaming giant to get their prestige titles better award seasons consideration.
  • However, numerous sources told Business Insider that Netflix has the opportunity to screen its movies at more theaters but has declined some offers.

It seems that, for at least a fleeting moment, Netflix was interested in buying movie theaters that would play its movies on the big screen.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the streaming giant “explored” the idea of acquiring Landmark Theatres, the 53-theater chain with locations in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco (among others).

Netflix eventually decided the price was too high, according to the paper (a source familiar with the situation confirmed to Business Insider that Netflix is not buying Landmark). But the news has puzzled many in the movie theater community because for years Netflix has been playing a cat-and-mouse game with exhibitors, especially arthouses.

On one hand, Netflix paints itself as the ultimate Hollywood disrupter – releasing movies simultaneously across the world on its streaming service, from blockbusters to award-season bait. However, on the other hand, Netflix craves prestige from Hollywood and wants its movies to be recognized with multiple Oscar nominations, just like how its TV shows are received by the Emmys.

But the big problem is movie theaters still hold some strong cards. Specifically, no movie can receive Oscar consideration unless it plays in movie theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a specific time. Because Netflix rarely gives its moves theatrical releases, and when it does they are “day-and-date” (playing in theaters when the movies are already streaming), the major movie chains refuse to show them.

This hasn’t stopped Netflix from getting acclaimed documentaries recognized (Netflix’s documentary “Icarus” recently won the best documentary Oscar), but when it comes to its narrative titles they are all but ignored. The acclaimed “Mudbound” received four nominations at this year’s Oscars, but none were for any of the major categories.

AMC is one of the theater chains that will not show Netflix titles if they are streamed at the same time. However, numerous arthouse theaters are willing to show Netflix titles.

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AMC is one of the theater chains that will not show Netflix titles if they are streamed at the same time. However, numerous arthouse theaters are willing to show Netflix titles.
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Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.com

So Netflix considering buying its own movie theaters to show its titles makes sense.

“They are looking for awards to boost subscription revenue and buying a theater chain would potentially allow them greater access to awards through key theatrical runs in target markets,” a source who works in exhibition told Business Insider.

However, some in the business are wondering why they just don’t play on more arthouse screens.

“Wouldn’t it be infinitely cheaper to just exhibit their movies like everyone else?” asked one source.

Despite the major multiplexes like AMC and Cinemark blocking Netflix movies because it does day-and-date, independent theaters want them.

Multiple sources in the arthouse community told Business Insider that Netflix has refused theaters that have asked to show its movies. Alamo Drafthouse, which has screened Netflix titles in the past, asked to screen “Mudbound” and Netflix declined, according to numerous sources.

“Netflix has specifically chosen not to make its films available,” a source said.

And there’s another reason why Netflix may have decided owning theaters wasn’t worth it: They would have finally have had to reveal to the public how their titles perform.

“Netflix movies do not report their grosses through comScore, which would likely have to end if they owned a theater company,” one industry source said. “It would look very bad for Netflix movies to underperform against traditional releases in their own theaters.”

Netflix declined to comment for this story.