Netflix Considers Movie Chain Buy, Passes on Landmark Deal

Netflix recently looked at buying the Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres, co-owned by Mark Cuban, say sources who added that Netflix dropped plans to seek a deal because its executives thought the price too expensive. But the search for a theater chain is likely not over since Netflix, despite its growing success, still struggles to find theatrical distribution. Recently the Cannes Film Festival banned movies from competition that didn’t play in French movie theaters, leading Netflix to pull out of the festival.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Netflix films, including “Okja,” competed at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. “We want our films to be on fair ground with every other filmmaker,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “There’s a risk in us going in this way and having our films and filmmakers treated disrespectfully at the festival.”

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Although Netflix has stated that “the traditional model of releasing movies in theaters before they hit streaming services is antiquated,” owning a theater chain “would give Netflix a boost for awards consideration and make it more attractive for filmmakers who still want to see their movies play on the big screen.”

Landmark, co-owned by Cuban and Todd Wagner, would have been a good match for Netflix, because it “specializes in the types of specialty and foreign movies that often get Oscar buzz.” The chain has 53 theaters with 255 screens in 27 markets. LAT notes that, “buying a smaller movie theater chain such as Landmark would hardly be a financial strain for Netflix, which carries a market value of more than $130 billion.”

Netflix, which has 125 million subscribers worldwide, plans to spend “as much as $8 billion this year on original and licensed content,” including 80 original movies.

But the company “has yet to crack the code of the movie industry … [as] the buzz for its movies has rarely matched that for its TV shows.” Its rival Amazon “has embraced the theatrical windowing model for now, partnering with established studios and distributors to release titles such as ‘Manchester by the Sea’ and ‘The Big Sick’ around the country before streaming them for Amazon Prime subscribers.”