Picture this: you are a massively successful streaming service that has disrupted Hollywood, ruffled some feathers and amassed more money than Bruce Wayne and Scrooge McDuck combined. What do you do to cement your status in the world and throw a bone to the film community?
You buy a classic movie theater of course!
That’s exactly what Netflix is doing, according to sources at Deadline. The company, which will also probably buy you and me someday, is in talks to acquire the historic Egyptian Theater in Hollywood for tens of millions of dollars. The theater, currently owned by non-profit American Cinematheque, has a lot of history. In fact the first ever movie premiere (1922’s Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks) was held at the theater. Since then it’s been a holy ground for film fanatics but has struggled to make ends meet lately. Netflix’s purchase would help American Cinematheque in a big way and would also allow Netflix to make nice with those in the film community who don’t quite trust the company as it begins to make serious headway in the awards circuit.
The current plan would have Netflix running the theater on weekday nights, showing selections from its massive catalogue and their Oscar contenders as well. Weekends would still belong to American Cinematheque, who would continue to show classic movies and have lectures and festivals. The financial backing from Netflix would allow American Cinematheque to greatly expand its programming so this is a win-win for everyone involved.
It’s a supremely smart move for Netflix. They have been dead-set on creating awards-caliber films for awhile and recently took home gold with Oscar winner Roma. While that was cause for celebration, it also upset many in the film community who felt that streaming films should be considered TV movies instead of actual movies. Many think that Netflix’s releases shouldn’t even be in contention with movies that play in theaters and follow the traditional Academy rules. They feel that Netflix is disrespecting and bastardizing the entire movie-going experience. I don’t agree, of course, but I can still see why some are uncomfortable about Netflix. Buying the Egyptian shows that Netflix does care about movies and how people watch movies, they’re just going about it in a different way. Purchasing the Egyptian and sharing it with American Cinematheque is Netflix saying “Hey, we’re on your side, Hollywood! We ALL love movies!”
One wonders if this is just the first of many theater purchases for Netflix. If they own multiple theaters, they can program their Oscar hopefuls there during awards season. That would minimize complaints that they’re ducking standard theatrical window rules set by the Academy. Despite what they say I wouldn’t be surprised if they find partnerships at other theaters in the months ahead. Starting with the Egyptian is a great first move and an olive branch to the Academy and movie community. Smooth, Netflix. Very smooth.