According to a surprise announcement, the Weinstein Company’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend,” a sequel to Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning martial arts epic from 2000, will premiere simultaneously in IMAX theaters and on Netflix in the first day-and-date release of its kind.
But theater chains don’t appear to be cooperating.
In a statement (via Deadline), Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said, “Fans will have unprecedented choice in how they enjoy an amazing and memorable film that combines intense action and incredible beauty. We are honored to be working with Harvey Weinstein and a world-class team of creators to bring this epic story to people all over the world and to partner with IMAX, a brand that represents the highest quality of immersive entertainment, in the distribution of this film.”
While this is great news for Netflix subscribers, some are wondering how this will affect movie theaters, as the window between theatrical release and home video release has shrunk in recent years.
Currently, the window is four months, according to Entertainment Weekly.
It’s probably too soon to say how much this move by the Weinstein Company will really disrupt the status quo, but it points to a larger phenomenon of experimenting with how and when movies are released.
Previously, day-and-date releases have been limited to smaller, indie fare and B-movies -- things that likely wouldn’t have had a huge theatrical audience in the first place.
“Crouching Tiger” is by far the biggest movie to ever try this kind of thing. It’s also the first day-and-date release through Netflix, which has already made aggressive strides in the world of TV with series like the Emmy-winning “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” challenging traditional programming. (Viewers should note that both programs are aimed at mature audiences.)
“The moviegoing experience is evolving quickly and profoundly, and Netflix is unquestionably at the forefront of that movement,” said Harvey Weinstein as part of the announcement. “We are tremendously excited to be continuing our great relationship with Netflix and bringing to fans all over the world the latest chapter in this amazing and intriguing story.”
Like previous deals that have threatened traditional distribution models, though, this announcement has quickly garnered quite a bit of backlash from theaters.
Regal, the country’s largest theater chain, which owns 86 IMAX locations, together with Cinemark and Carmike, the third- and fourth-largest chains, have all refused to cooperate, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Of the big four, this left AMC, which some had anticipated might be more flexible. Shortly thereafter, however, AMC also announced plans to boycott the film, saying in a joint statement with Chinese parent company Wanda (via Variety), “No one has approached us to license this made-for-video sequel in the U.S. or China, so one must assume the screens IMAX committed are in science centers and aquariums.”
This could throw a wrench in the Weinstein plans. Even though some backlash was undoubtedly anticipated, in the original announcement, IMAX’s senior executive officer Greg Foster said the company was “excited” to allow exhibitors in the U.S. “the opportunity to participate in this alternative form of content in a new and innovative way” but said it was “particularly hopeful” for the Chinese market.
China already has the second-largest number of IMAX screens of any country in the world at more than 170 and is expected to overtake the U.S. (currently, 340 screens) in the next few years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The majority of these, however, are owned by Wanda.
The Weinstein Company has yet to respond to the boycott.
Meanwhile, though, Netflix has moved forward with more plans that are sure to put theater chains on edge. Just days after “Crouching Tiger 2,” the company announced another groundbreaking deal, this time for exclusive rights to four feature films starring Adam Sandler, according to a press release on the Netflix website.
If “Crouching Tiger” didn’t make the streaming service’s intentions clear, that definitely did.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend” is scheduled to premiere on Netflix on Aug. 28, 2015, the same day that it releases in participating IMAX theaters -- if there are any. It is being helmed by legendary fight choreographer/director Yuen Wo-Ping (the original “Crouching Tiger,” “The Matrix”) and will star Michelle Yeoh (also from the original “Crouching Tiger”) and Donnie Yen (“Ip Man”).