Netflix is reportedly considering a more drastic plan to get its movies on the big screen: buying theaters. The streaming service was in talks to acquire Mark Cuban’s Landmark Theaters chain but backed out due to the cost, according to a new report from the Los Angeles Times. A source at Variety claims that Netflix isn’t interested in Landmark specifically, but has considered acquiring theatrical space.
Although the two sources who spoke to the Times say that Netflix ultimately killed the deal, the rumors could still be an important indicator of how Netflix imagines its future in the entertainment industry. Even though Netflix has around 125 million paying subscribers, putting it ahead of competitors like Amazon (which recently announced it had 100 million total Prime subscribers) and Hulu (which is mostly US-based), it still has yet to earn complete respect from major theater chains and film establishments.
Most recently, Netflix was effectively shut out of this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Last year, Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux implemented a rule that required all films to be screened in French theaters in order to be eligible for the Palme d’Or award, which he had allowed Netflix to bypass at the time due to strict media regulations in France. When Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories were screened at Cannes last year, they were booed by audiences. So last month, Netflix was banned from competing at the festival, prompting Netflix to pull out of the fest entirely.
Owning a theater or theater chain would make it easier for Netflix to qualify for other Hollywood awards like the Oscars, which also require that films see a theatrical release in order to be eligible. Although Netflix films like Beasts of No Nation and Mudbound were screened in a limited number of theaters, the streaming service has stuck to a day-and-date structure, meaning those films were available to watch simultaneously in theaters and on Netflix. According to Variety, major theater chains won’t carry a movie without an exclusive theatrical window.
Amazon, on the other hand, has been less hesitant to screen its originals in theaters. 2016’s Oscar-winner Manchester by the Sea saw a traditional release schedule, first premiering at Sundance and then rolling out to theaters in different markets before ending up on Amazon Prime. Netflix won its first feature Oscar this year for Icarus, which simultaneously debuted in theaters and on Netflix.
Netflix declined to comment on the reports.