Netflix CEO: Movie Theaters Are “Strangling The Movie Business”

Image courtesy of Scott Lynch

It’s no surprise that Netflix would disagree with the traditional release schedule movie theaters stick to — premiering new movies in theaters and delaying their release to TV or on-demand services months later — and today the company’s CEO Reed Hastings took that a step further, saying theater chains are discouraging innovation in the industry.

Hastings claims that movie studios want to “break the oligopoly” of movie theaters but they don’t know how to do that without going up against movie theater owners — who have brushed off ideas like opening-day home video releases in the past.

“It’s a real tragedy,” Hastings told The New Yorker editor David Remnick during the magazine’s TechFest conference in New York City, reported by USA Today. “The movie theaters are strangling the movie business. There’s [been] no innovation in distribution in movie theaters in the last 50 years. You can’t distribute a movie directly to consumers or they strike against the movie. They’ve got a lock hold on the movie studios. That’s driven flat line revenue.”

In March, the National Association of Theatre Owners argued that theatrical releases of movies are vital because “The exclusive theatrical release window makes new movies events. Success there establishes brand value and bolsters revenue in downstream markets.”

Reed also weighed in on Netflix’s future in China, saying the company won’t have a presence there in the near future. He cites the fact that Chinese regulators have shut down movie offerings from Disney and Apple.

“It doesn’t look good. We’re figuring our way out [in China], but we’re really focused on the rest of the world,” he says. “There is so much opportunity for us in India, Poland, Turkey and Latin America and Vietnam.”

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