Netflix is taking on movie theaters with its first major feature film, a follow-up to 2000's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"—and it'll start streaming to Netflix subscribers the same day it lands in cinemas.
According to Deadline, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend" will premiere simultaneously on Netflix and in IMAX theaters on August 28, 2015. It'll likely be the first Netflix film to launch day-and-date in theaters, though the streaming service has other film deals in the works.
What it means: Netflix has long bemoaned Hollywood's “windowing” system, which dictates when movies can go from theaters to home video to streaming. These windows are one reason why Netflix doesn't have lots of new releases to choose from, so now, Netflix is trying to create its own hits, just as it did for TV shows with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. The simultaneous IMAX release will test the idea that some people will pay for the theater experience even if they can watch for much cheaper at home.
Angry theater, hidden movie
"The Green Legend" is somewhat of a sequel to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," in that they are both based on books in Wan Du Lu's Crane-Iron Pentalogy series. Actress Michelle Yeoh will return as Yu Shu-Lien, but actor Chow Yun-fat and director Ang Lee aren't involved. The film will be produced by the Weinstein Company, which already offers much of its back catalog on Netflix, and is working with Netflix on an original miniseries about Marco Polo.
As Re/code points out, "The Green Legend" will only appear in some IMAX theaters. Other theater chains won't screen the movie, as they have strongly resisted day-and-date home video releases for feature films. (There have been a few experiments with instant home video releases at exorbitant prices, but they've never taken off.)
Netflix hasn't minced words about the theater industry's unwillingness to change. “The reason why we may enter this space and try to release some big movies ourselves this way, is because I'm concerned that as theater owners try to strangle innovation and distribution, not only are they going to kill theaters, they might kill movies,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, said last year.
Still, Netflix will need more than just a single hit movie to make the industry rethink its approach, as it won't allow for the obsessive binge watching that made Netflix's TV series so popular. While the service apparently has other feature films in the works, it's hard to see this as anything but an experiment for now.