In a move to further bolster its reputation as an ally for theatrical distribution, Netflix is in early talks to purchase the legendary Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. The news comes courtesy of Deadline, who reports that Netflix is working to acquire the location from American Cinemateque, a non-profit that’s used the theater to exhibit independent, classic, and foreign films as well as events, festivals, and Q&A’s. The Egyptian Theater hosted Hollywood’s first ever movie premiere in 1922 for the Douglas Fairbanks-led Robin Hood.
While at first blush this may sound like the big bad corporation coming to edge out independent cinema, the details of the acquisition are quite encouraging. The deal would find Netflix programming its own screenings on weekday nights, while the Cinemateque would continue to run screenings, lectures, and occasional festivals on weekends “on an autonomous basis”—meaning Netflix would own the theater, thereby lessening the financial burden on American Cinemateque, while the Cinemateque will continue to showcase films and filmmakers at its leisure.
Netflix is expected to hold occasional special screenings and events for some of its splashiest movies, and indeed given how strongly most theater chains oppose Netflix, this would give the streaming giant a home of its own to premiere original films like Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman or Noah Baumbach’s upcoming film in a genuine theater with a full red carpet and everything. And no doubt many of the Netflix originals that appear on Collider’s own Best Movies on Netflix list would play far better in a theatrical setting.
I’m personally all for any move by Netflix that makes theatrical exhibition more widespread and attainable. While the streaming service previously held fast to its “all Netflix originals must premiere on streaming the same day as theatrical” rule, that was broken this past fall with Oscar hopefuls like Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. While the window still isn’t quite at the 90-day lag between theatrical release and streaming that most theater chains require, it’s a step in the right direction, and the entire idea of long theatrical windows may be coming to an end at large over the next few years as streaming and VOD become more and more popular ways of watching movies.
This negotiation between Netflix and American Cinemateque is not yet finalized so this could all fall through, but from my vantage point—as someone who still prefers to see most movies in a theater—this is a good thing. What say you, folks? Sound off in the comments below.