– by David Kozlowski

What’s your idea of the perfect movie-going experience? For many, the traditional darkened theater full of strangers, collectively staring up at the big screen still represents the way films were meant to be enjoyed. For others, curling up on the couch, in the warmth and seclusion of their own living rooms, huddled under a blanket, and logging into Netflix represents the present and future of cinema. 

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, addressing the media at his Los Gatos, California headquaters this week believes that both have their place. In fact, he foresees a marriage, of sorts, between Netflix and movie theaters, which he believes is necessary for the health and prosperity of both.

“What Netflix wants to do is to unleash film. Itís fundamentally about growing the movie business.” 

In the VHS era of the 80s and 90s, a film might remain in theaters for months, playing extended secondary runs on neighborhood and rural screens. A typical film take a year to release on home video — and the retail cost of a newly released film on VHS was prohibitively expensive, catering largely to the rental market. Theater chains contracted in the 2000s, DVD/Blu-Ray drove consumer prices dramatically lower, and demand for DVD/Blu-Ray compressed the home release timeline to around three months. Today, it’s not uncommon for new films to reach digital outlets just weeks after their big screen debuts. Movie theaters are finding it harder and harder to attract audiences while major films are seeing shorter and shorter runs.

Theater owners and their partner organization, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), fear that the incredible rise of Netflix, and the pull of Netflix’s original content, will further erode what remains of theater’s tenuous status quo. 

However, Hastings wants to develop a more unified and positive relationship between theater and Netflix experiences. He’s struck a deal with iPic Entertainment, a small boutique theater chain located in key cities around the country, to debut 10 Netflix movies synonomous with their digital releases (this would also enable these Netflix movies to qualify for the Academy Awards). Essentially, eliminating the concept of a gap between big screen and personal screen release.

Netflix has already announced 20 new original movies for 2017, many with budgets rivaling those of major Hollywood motion pictures — and has plans to spend billions on new productions going forward. It’s not a question of whether or not Netflix is having an impact on movie theaters and consumer viewing habits, it’s the accepting the reality that some kind of alliance is a logical next step in how film is perceived and enjoyed by consumers.

How do you feel about watching Netflix movies at the your local theater? Let us know in the comments down below!

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SOURCE: Variety

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.