Netflix and the future of cinema: everyone at home, in front of his TV?

By privileging its platform and producing its own films, Netflix worries the film industry. Will the SVOD service sign the end of the dark rooms? Is the cinema of the future likely to become individual, each remaining at home?

Will Netflix and Amazon “disrupt” the future of cinema? SVOD (Video on Demand with Subscription) is already booming, already shaking the television channels, and is preparing to do the same with the cinematographic production companies. In addition to competing with their own films, on-demand entertainment platforms disrupt the very concept of “media chronology” – to the point of worrying moviegoers: would it be the announced end of the dark rooms, to the benefit of a “consumption” alone, carried out alone in his room?

Bright, the next film in which Will Smith plays, will be released in December 2017. A blockbuster that will cost $ 90 million, and that has everything from the classic Hollywood movie … but that will not be screened in theaters. This “original creation” of Netflix will only be available on the SVOD platform, and will thus be reserved for its 104 million subscribers.

The streaming platform has a catalog of thousands of movies and series – most have been produced by others, but more and more titles are “original creations”. Dozens of hit series such as Narcos and Stranger Things, as well as feature films, such as The Meyerowitz Stories and Okja – two films that were featured at the Cannes Film Festival, for being presented without being screened in any room.

With a market value of $ 74 billion (more than the 21st Century Fox), Netflix equals GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook …) with the brand new NATU (Netflix, Airbnb, Tesla, Uber) “disruptive” services in full boom. Building on its success, the Los Gatos company plans to spend $ 7 billion in 2018 to acquire licensed content, but also to produce its “original programs”, loving to stand as the white knight of creation.

But for many directors and actors, Netflix disturbs and represents more a threat than a chance for creation. For Pedro Almodóvar, President of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, there is no question of granting a Palme d’Or to a film “that can not be seen on the big screen.” And fear the disappearance, if the Netflix model became the norm, dark rooms.

However, Ted Sarandos, the content manager for Netflix, said in a company where new generations will have “seen all possible movies on a mobile screen”, the size of the screen or the broadcast platform “matter little”. And to recall that the videotapes “did not kill the rooms” when they arrived in the 1980s … and that it should be the same with the SVOD.

The next era of the “day-and-date”

For Netflix, what matters is demand. In its viewfinder, the French “media chronology”, according to which a SVOD platform can not broadcast a film less than 3 years after its release in cinemas (4 months for DVD and VOD, 10 months for pay TV). According to Ted Sarandos, many “consumers” living away from a cinema, and the operators distributing badly certain films, the fact of releasing a work simultaneously in rooms and online (as is the case for Okja in the USA and in England), or even to broadcast it only on Netflix, would be perfectly justified.

At Netflix, we argue for the end of the traditional broadcasting model of films, in favor of the “day-and-date”, simultaneous release in cinemas and on the Net. “We love cinema so much that we want everyone to see movies on release, both in theaters and on-demand video. We have to let the viewer decide, “says Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of the company. For him, going to the cinema is like going to “sometimes at the restaurant”, to share a good time with friends. However, “people are not forbidden to cook and eat at home”, no?

On Medium, blogger social media specialist Benoît Raphaël defends the platform: “Netflix is ​​a streaming site. Not a box of movie prod. The films he produces are made for broadcast on the Internet. And we do not care a bit about whether a movie will be aired on Netflix a few days after the show, after all it is they who paid (9 € / month against 15 € cinema), and then both we can see the film why take the lead? “He also recalls that today,” those who have the money to finance quality productions are called Netflix and Amazon. So rather than eject them from the world of cinema, we might have to wonder about the mechanisms of this new world. ”

Netflix creations in battle order

What is the difference between Netflix’s strategy and the traditional direct-to-video (DTV) or direct-to-DVD? Well, so far, the DTV only concerned “second-market films”. With Netflix, the day-and-date also covers “prime market” films. In 2017, the SVOD giant is expected to spend $ 6 billion to develop original content and purchase broadcasting rights. He is expected to produce 50 films, including Scorsese’s next feature, The Irishman (budget: 90 million euros) – which may be released on the same day in the cinema and on the Internet.

The platform also poses as a defender of the cinema of author vis-a-vis the studios of Hollywood, which “take less risks”, because submitted to the box office. According to Ted Sarandos, “we only have to finance some films,” referring to The Irishman, but also to many films “that do not climb elsewhere”, because of small budgets because not resembling blockbusters “easy to market”, or because independent. And for directors whose productions were financed or stamped Netflix, the main thing is that people see their films – and the millions of subscribers to the platform with the red logo (128 in 2022) represent a great opportunity.

Home Theater

The film industry is doing quite well (although streaming services, legal or not, are big competitors, especially for DVDs), and not all films in the world are produced by Netflix, but the day- and-date seems to attract other actors, such as the Paramount Pictures studio, which has already released movies on the Internet a few weeks after their passage in theaters, but also like the Amazon giant.

The company founded by Jeff Bezos also produces his own films – from Woody Allen’s “Café Society” to Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by The Sea” (two Oscars). And like Netflix, it is the day of independent filmmakers. Amazon does not shake the cinema industry any more: its films, available on its Amazon Prime Video platform, are released only 90 days after their theatrical release – but the company is increasingly turning to the day-and- dated.

As long as the movies still go out, why worry? Perhaps because it is so easy today to watch a movie at home as in the cinema, that it could be a simpler day for viewers to prefer to watch movies directly from their sofa in “cinema quality “, That to move to the multiplex of the corner (until then, let’s make the bet that the cinemas of district and those of art and test will have virtually disappeared …).

Netflix promises to offer a quality that is similar to, or even better than, that of the films screened in theaters, thanks to 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos (ultra-immersive 3D sound). Of course, to take advantage of it, you have to buy one of the few high-tech cameras compatible at the moment, and which cost about 2000 euros – as well as a Home Cinema … But the prices are likely to fall, and to democratize the cinema at home, which Netflix clearly calls for.

“Individual viewing” should be all the more boosted when virtual reality upsets the entire cinema sector. Just look at this excerpt from the Book of the Jungle in RV to imagine what a virtual reality movie might look like, an idea taken very seriously by several studios, such as the Twentieth Century Fox. Meanwhile, systems will very soon propose to see a movie at home, but with a VR helmet, so … to believe in a movie theater.

Nothing beats a real movie theater

The film industry is shared with the Netflix strategy, but directors, such as Christopher Nolan and James Cameron, and studios opposed it frontally. Disney and 20th Century Fox develop their own SVOD websites, and will soon remove their movies from the red logo platform.

And US ? Should we take the defense of the dark rooms, or the SVOD? It seems possible to reconcile the two, without however generalizing the day-and-date, which could prove to be deadly for the rooms – which would be driven to project more than blockbusters, visually more interesting on the big screen. The decline of cinemas is a catastrophic scenario, but in doubt, it would be better to imagine a win-win system, like the one proposed (for now) Amazon waiting 3 months before putting its films in line.

Still, nothing will ever be worth the experience of a movie viewed in a real movie theater. Of course, projectionists will always forget to correctly adjust the sound, and of course there will always be spectators without embarrassment, but nothing will ever replace such a place of sociability. As the critic Jean-Michel Frodon remarks, “it is the eternal debate: we knew ‘television will kill cinema’, VHS then DVD, and now Netflix.” Yet, he notes, “cinema has always been able to recover from these innovations that seemed to be able to bury it”, and it should thus succeed in reinventing itself – in particular by reducing the prices of places or with better technologies of ” display?

A cinema alone, governed by algorithms?

Certainly, we must live with its time – that of streaming and the ubiquitous screens. But can we really be satisfied with a future where films will only be visible on Netflix or Amazon Video? Will we accept a solo cinema, at home, based on algorithms of recommendations, which will choose for us the movies to be seen?

As noted by Boris Bastide on Slate, the algorithms, which allow the platform to know what you prefer or not, may also push Netflix and its competitors to favor the production of a certain type of series or films, likely to please the greatest number. Will a film be more than a simple act of consumption, handed over to “ultra-liberal firms, where money directs everything”? Finally, will we end by no longer going out of our house, whether to eat, to visit monuments, to love or to dream before a cinematographic work? Hopefully, not.