Netflix, You’ve Got A Nerve



This week I received in my emails an invitation from Netflix to help them kill cinema.

They’re inviting BAFTA members to see the film ‘Okja’ and vote for it in the upcoming awards season. Netflix isn’t the only streaming service to eschew theatrical releases and opt instead for online debuts. It knows that in order to compete with the major studios, it has to sell something that others aren’t willing to. So it premieres the film it invests in on its streaming service and keeps it out of cinemas and off DVD for longer. Which is its right, as it has bought the film for its catalogue.

But Netflix is finding out that television does not operate in the same way as cinema. It has chosen quirky, downright peculiar films. ‘Okja’ is beautiful, eccentric, harrowing and hilarious. But is finding it in an arthouse cineplex different to streaming it on a pay channel?

So far Netflix have released the documentaries ’13th’, ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?’ and ‘Get Me Roger Stone’, and the fiction films David Michôd’s ‘War Machine’ and Yuen Woo-Ping’s ‘Crouching Tiger’ sequel. It bought ‘Beasts of No Nation’, a war drama set in west Africa that other studios refused to touch (it netted Idris Elba a Golden Globe nomination). It even distributed the critically reviled ‘Ridiculous 6’ and ‘The Do Over’, and turned them into online hits. And like other TV channels it is also throwing on a lot of low-end rubbish that never gets written about.

Netflix is becoming a place for directors looking to make films that wouldn’t otherwise find a home, but by cutting out cinemas and the DVD window they’ve also made enemies. The French hate them (quelle surprise) but the real problem for consumers is that films like ‘Okja’ are made for a huge screen – it’s an epic movie but it will now only be seen on laptops, iPads and home televisions.

Netflix doesn’t care. It has a 100 million subscribers. So what if a few awkward French critics complain? Anyway, by removing the nostalgic element of the old-fashioned cinema experience, it may be showing us the way forward.

The Netflix model is already being followed by other streaming services. Cinemas are failing in the US, so studios are concentrating on emerging markets like China, which is the only reason why Hollywood blockbusters have started to become more ethnically diverse.

Perhaps we’ll look back and be able to fix wraparound dates on the life of the cinema (1906 – 2020?).


3 comments on “Netflix, You’ve Got A Nerve”

  1. Steveb says:

    I doubt if cinema will die yet, because the communal aspect cant yet be duplicated at home. But it will probably mutate.

  2. Lauren says:

    Don’t blame Netflix for the demise of cinemas: we just need to look in the mirror. There are fewer films being made that really need to be seen on the big screen, as studios have their eyes firmly on the TV and streaming deals. They know most of us don’t want to get dressed, drive across town and pay for a single film twice the cost of Netflix. That is, if you can find the film you want – “art” films have limited releases, and the one venue may be 40 minutes away (that’s typical here in Phoenix where only one cinema shows the more highbrow fare, and then only briefly). Then you sit in dubious seats with cell phones ringing, buzzing or just breaking the darkness as someone texts. And of course someone brought their three kids, who are fighting, crying or/and running up and down the stairs. Miss a bit of dialogue? Your hand reaches for the remote that isn’t there so no rewinding possible. Want to stop the film to hit the (disgusting) restrooms or get robbed at the concession stand? Sorry. Buh bye, cinemas.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    Lauren, I’ve read this post of yours several times now and I really agree with what you say, except that I don’t have Netflix. The big films, Chariots of Fire, Lawrence of Arabia, the Ten Commandments, and Gone with the Wind all belong to another generation perhaps two generations or even three generations ago. I wouldn’t want to see any of those on a small screen, especially not for a first time, and it has been some time since I went to a movie. Part of that has to do with my husband’s hearing problem, but, yes, a movie is now a “night out” with all the costs involved in that and concerts or plays are usually too expensive to even consider unless it is a local amateur or semi professional production. Semi professional: that’s where professionals unable to find a paying gig perform for free with amateurs. Undesirable. I digress. While I agree about the concession stands (why do we feel a need to eat while watching a movie?) our restrooms seem to be well maintained as opposed to the theatres themselves. Gum on the undersides of seats, drink containers abandoned on the floor or seats, popcorn all over as well as the gigantic containers for it, various wrappers and boxes, just a total mess which gets worse as the evening goes on so if you go to a nine o’clock (let alone an 11 pm) show you’re shuffling though a garbage dump (land tip).
    All of that is true but what we really don’t like is having to share the theatre with other people who won’t be silent and still for us. We want the same situation we have at home where children can be sent to bed and everyone cooperates. That is the real attraction of Netflix. They turn down the lights in the theatre beforehand so you can’t read and wait for the film to start but have to watch the “guess the actor” games, promos, and actual advertisements. Ads I can get at home and I don’t know the actors well enough to play the guessing game.

Comments are closed.