Film

Netflix and not-so-chill: why they should rethink their distribution strategies

Netflix is an online streaming service which provides a subscription service on-demand to a supposedly ‘wide range’ of films and serials. They’ve recently been making and distributing ‘Netflix Originals’, exclusively on the service. This is nothing new in the film industry – online streaming through giants such as Amazon have been happening for years and some films are released ‘straight-to-DVD’. However, Netflix caused controversy recently at the Cannes Film Festival with their entries of Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories in the main competition, as it didn’t follow a traditional release in French cinemas. Cannes have now tightened up regulations on Netflix’s inclusion at future competitions.

I will be quite honest in my assessment: I dislike Netflix. I don’t feel that Netflix have a wide-enough range of films for casual filmgoers to warrant charging for their service. I especially don’t like the fact that their films don’t receive a home release on DVD / BluRay. Film critic, Mark Kermode recently published a video regarding the release of Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th which was released in one cinema in the UK just to qualify for Awards consideration. Many cinemas wanted to screen it but weren’t allowed to as 13th ‘wasn’t available for booking’. Of course, people who weren’t aware of this information and who wanted to watch 13th in a cinema weren’t allowed to do so and could easily have judged the cinemas’ short-sightedness for appearing to not want to screen it. If there is a big audience for a film that will attract box office revenue, why on earth show it in one cinema?! This was Netflix wanting to promote themselves by making people stream it online, not for the sake of the film.

It was recently announced that Martin Scorsese’s next directorial project will be The Irishman, the long-anticipated adaptation of Charles Brandt’s novel I Heard You Paint Houses. Unfortunately, it will be a ‘Netflix Original’. I will be surprised if reception for the film is nothing but favourable. This film is an event – the reuniting of great actors (Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino) and a director going back to his roots. Scorsese will also be experimenting with some interesting visual effects to de-age De Niro in some early sequences of the film. It needs to be screened in a cinema for all to see and it needs to be available subsequently for home viewers to enjoy for years to come for repeat viewings. This will not happen if people can only go and see it in a handful of cinemas, or in the case of 13th, just one.

There has been an increase in filmmakers, with some big names attached, whose next projects will be with Netflix. I understand why, as filmmakers receive a lot more creative freedom, and do not have to conform to the constraints of a studio. We hear all too often of directors dropping out of projects due to creative differences. Frankly, who wouldn’t want to make a film without all of this hassle from studios? Whilst creative freedom is almost always a good thing, I am genuinely baffled why the major studios haven’t reacted to this model and start giving filmmakers more leniency. Surely that would be a win-win for all.

As is probably evident, I feel pretty strongly about this subject and if this continues to be the way that more and more films get distributed, the film industry will suffer. I’m not trying to convince you to stop using Netflix – that’s not my job. I do, however, want people to be aware of the implications that are imposed. I’m overjoyed that the French have clamped down on them and hopefully, Netflix will reconsider their distribution strategies. As for The Irishman, I’m still very excited for it but I’m worried that it will suffer the same fate. Scorsese likely won’t be given the proper budget, the film will never see the light of day in the majority of cinemas, and won’t receive a home release. Instead, we’ll all have to sign up to Netflix and stream it. Come on Marty, for the sake of your film, see some sense!

13/06/2017

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oscarhuckle


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