Cinemark Showing Netflix Movies Could Help A Streaming-Focused Industry
Once arch-nemesis of exhibitors, Netflix is closing in on Cinemark in a relationship that could be a new model for a streaming-focused industry.
Before the pandemic, the country’s biggest movie chains were adamant in their refusal to show Netflix movies, given the streamer’s demand for dramatically shortened windows. But now that Disney, Universal and other major studios have smashed the 90-day window, Cinemark is ready to show movies from Netflix and other streamers – but only if they invest in marketing and give the circuit a boost. large share of the film’s revenue.
That’s the word from Mark Zoradi, who retired as CEO of Cinemark late last year after seven years on the job. Zoradi, who remains on the company’s board, detailed Cinemark’s interest in streamer movies in an interview with Boxoffice Pro posted on Thursday.
“The key thing with streamers is that they not only have some form of exclusive window – whether it’s 17 days, 24 days or 31 days – but also that the streamer has a substantial marketing campaign. If a movie is shown without a major marketing campaign, it’s not going to work very well,” he said.
The box office improved from its pandemic lows, but 2021 domestic gross was still just 39% of 2019 levels, as reported by IndieWire’s Tom Brueggemann. By asking for a reduced movie rental, Cinemark wants a bigger slice of a smaller pot. For streamers, this is a different value proposition than the traditional theatrical model, where a film’s success was defined by whether it recouped production and marketing costs from ticket sales. But it’s increasingly alluring in the new media landscape, where expensive streaming content faces competition from an endless array of choices and engagement is the key emerging measure of success.
Streamers “can release the movie theatrically, have box office success, and eventize this movie, which makes it more valuable for first home viewing,” Zoradi said. “We will keep trying to do that. Maybe we’ll get some key markets to test it in, so they can see the results of a meaningful test in three or four key markets and really go after those markets with an aggressive marketing campaign for those consumers – which we would like to then complement with an aggressive retail marketing campaign with our website and app and in theater to be able to show them that ultimately it’s more profitable for them.
Cinemark first started doing business with Netflix in November 2020, when it gave “Christmas Chronicles 2” a limited test. After several similar releases, the pair expanded their relationship last May with a wider release of Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead.” To date, Cinemark has shown more than 10 Netflix movies in its theaters.
The once unlikely pair got cozier in November, when Cinemark bragged that Dwayne Johnson’s “Red Notice” actor was “officially the highest performing Netflix movie showing in its theaters.” (Following Netflix’s quiet lead, Cinemark didn’t provide any details to back it up.)
But in the interview published Thursday, Zoradi was careful not to portray the relationship as permanent — any future deal will have to make sense to Cinemark.
“We are testing with Netflix, and would like to test with Amazon as well. We are open to testing shortened windows for significant movie rental discounts. We plan to continue testing with Netflix,” he said.
With “Red Notice,” Cinemark and Netflix have teamed up in a “12 Days of Red Notice” marketing initiative, with nearly two weeks of freebies including private watch parties and Cinemark ticket subscriptions, while all ticket holders on opening day got free concessions. While it’s unclear exactly how much the theatrical release helped, Netflix reported the film was the most-watched of all time. It was watched for 328.8 million hours a few weeks after its streaming debut, beating the previous best movie, 2018’s “Bird Box.”
Meanwhile, AMC and Regal haven’t budged on their pre-pandemic Netflix policy. Citing unnamed sources, The Hollywood Reporter wrote in November that Cinemark’s rivals wouldn’t star “Red Notice” in part because the marketing spend wasn’t there: Although the film was heavily promoted, its marketing was very different from what cinemas expected from a tent pole. None of the channel’s representatives returned IndieWire’s request for comment.
Legacy studios have also begun to explore the idea that theatrical releases can offer something more than revenue. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who will soon head a company associated with WarnerMedia, last month described the box office as “the top of the funnel” to draw attention to streaming services. like HBO Max and Discovery+. That thought explains why “Dune,” which grossed $396.14 million on a $165 million budget, saw a sequel announced weeks before the full picture of the film’s theatrical performance was in sight.