On Friday, May 14th, Netflix’s Army of the Dead opened at approximately 600 theatres across the U.S., including 300 Cinemark locations. The R-Rated zombie thriller directed by Zack Snyder opened on Netflix only one week later. Pre-COVID, Netflix and the nation’s largest exhibitors had been unable to reach mutually acceptable terms under which Netflix titles would play in theatres. Netflix insisted on very short windows for its films to play in theatres prior to their streaming debut and exhibitors were unwilling to agree to those terms. However, COVID has upended the expectation of long, exclusive runs for theatres, with even traditional Hollywood studios such as Warner Bros. and Disney experimenting with simultaneous releases to theatres and on their own in-house streaming platforms.
As the pandemic lifts, theatres re-open and moviegoers return to theatres, exhibitors and studios are considering new models for how the industry will bring films to consumers, making them available both in theatres and online. This may open up opportunities for studios that made their name in streaming such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu to become an additional source for feature films to play in theatres.