In a very unexpected move, the company that was built from seeing movies in the comfort of your own home, has bought and established their first official cinema. The Paris Theater, an iconic and well-established picture-house in Manhattan recently closed back in August after 70 years in the business. Netflix stepped in this month to bring the cinema back from the abyss, premiering their new release of Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. But what does this move mean for Netflix and cinema as a whole?
There has been talk for a number of years now that cinema attendance has been on the decline. More of us are signing up to an increasing selection of streaming services. Seemingly for some, the choice to watch a movie at home, with the benefits of pausing, rewinding and talking appears more ideal. Yet, the evidence suggests otherwise, recent statistics have shown that cinema attendance is actually still going strong, and increasing.
So where does Netflix fit into this picture? Arguably, the first and without question largest and strongest streaming platform, they have always separated themselves from the cinema going experience. Last years Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Gravity), was reluctantly given a small theatrical realise and festival circuit. This was primarily a move to be considered for Best Picture at the Oscars (it missed out to Green Book), but it showed Netflix’s reluctance to embrace the format that created most of their content.
Embracing cinema is something one of Netflix’s main competitors has always done. Amazon Prime, the second-largest streaming platform at the time of writing this, has a long history of premiering their content in cinemas (and enjoying academy acclaim). Netflix may be trialling The Paris Theater to move into this market. After all, Netflix has a lot of top-level talent creating exclusive content for them. Most recently, they released Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, a film many critics are calling the best American release of the year. Netflix would have no issue with reaping in the awards with the big-name talent behind them.
This is an interesting time for streaming and cinema. North America just saw the record-breaking release of Disney+, Apple TV+ has recently premiered too. Over the coming months more will arrive (Peacock, HBO Max). Cinema is facing its greatest challenge since the invention of the television. Yet they form a symbiotic circle, and it appears with this recent move, Netflix knows this. Cinema is still going strong, and streaming continues to dominate the market. The streaming wars may be more of a cold one, and the future of cinema continues to remain unpredictable. One thing is for certain however, we’ll still be watching content, be it in a cinema or at home.