Booking of Netflix releases raises ire among Aussie exhibitors

09 October, 2019 by Don Groves

‘The Irishman’ (Photo credit: Netflix).

Many Australian exhibitors are up in arms about the upcoming theatrical releases of the Netflix productions The King, The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes.


They believe the accelerated home entertainment window for each title, which averages three weeks, jeopardises the primacy of the theatrical release while they continue to invest millions of dollars refurbishing their cinemas.

Some exhibitors have refused to screen all four films while others were not offered them. Eddie Tamir’s Classic, Lido and Cameo Cinemas are the sole locations in Victoria.

In NSW, Tamir’s Ritz Cinemas in Randwick has booked the films. So has Dendy Cinemas. Those venues agreed to accept a shorter window last year for Alfonso Cuarón’s Netflix-financed Roma.

Most exhibitors to whom IF spoke were not willing to talk on the record but privately expressed their anger over the release plans. One film industry executive said the exhibition industry had never been as galvanized or united in defence of the traditional 90-day window.

Adrianne Pecotic, CEO of Independent Cinemas Australia (ICA), acknowledges each exhibitor has the right to decide whether or not to book films case-by-case, based on the terms, likely box office, theatrical windows and marketing strategy.

But she tells IF: “ICA considers the exclusive theatrical windows model of 90 – 120 days is very important to the sustainability of cinema businesses especially independent cinema. This model allows exhibitors to book a theatrical season with confidence and allows time to grow a cinema run that can reach diverse audiences and communities.

“Unlike streaming and broadcast platforms, exhibitors, distributors, investors and the cinemagoing public all benefit by growing the box office popularity of a theatrical release title. We support a business approach that keeps cinemas open now and into the future and allows as many people as possible to have the opportunity to enjoy films as a shared experience on the big screen.”

Scott Mota, Dendy/Icon head of group marketing, points out that Roma played for 18 weeks at the chain despite the fact it opened one week before its Netflix release.

“Cinema has remained resilient in the face of emerging entertainment platforms as the cinema experience is a unique one, in that it is a shared experience,” Mota tells IF.

“This summer there are a number of films releasing on various streaming platforms which have gained critical acclaim at international festivals including The King, Brittany Runs A Marathon, The Irishman, The Report, Marriage Story and The Two Popes.

“We will be releasing all of these films ahead of the on-demand release, giving our customers the opportunity to watch these quality films on the big screen.”

‘The Two Popes’ (Photo credit: Netflix).

Directed by David Michôd, The King will open at Tamir’s cinemas and at Dendy Cinemas on Friday following Thursday night’s red carpet premiere at the Ritz attended by the director, producer Liz Watts and stars Timothée Chalamet and Joel Edgerton.

Martin Scorsese’s gangster epic The Irishman, which stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Bobby Canavale and Ray Romano, opens on November 7.

The major US chains have refused to book the film, which launches there in select cinemas on November 1 and will head to streaming on November 27.

Writer-director Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama Marriage Story, which stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, opens here on November 14.

Finally, Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes, which features Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Benedict and the future Pope Francis, releases on December 5.

The angst over the Netflix titles raises questions about exhibitors’ attitude towards Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang, which is due to open in cinemas this summer via Transmission Films and thereafter on Stan as a Stan Original production.

The launch date and window are yet to be revealed but, given their current mood, it’s likely that many exhibitors will balk at a shorter window.