Netflix just took another step toward getting its films into theaters

Next year, some of Netflix's original movies will have a debut home on the big screen. The streaming service just signed a deal with the theater chain iPic Entertainment that will give a same-day theater release to a portion of Netflix's films, The Wall Street Journal reports. The deal includes 10 of Netflix's upcoming movies, including The Siege of Jadotville (which will see a simultaneous release this Friday) and the Christopher Guest-directed comedy Mascots.

iPic Entertainment is a small luxury theater company — WSJ says the theaters offer "lobster rolls on the menu and monogrammed blankets for certain members" — with just 15 outposts around the country. Netflix's films will screen in New York and Los Angeles, according to WSJ, with a possible expansion to other theaters. While this is not the first time Netflix has brought its films to the big screen, it is the company's first long-term partnership with a theater chain.

The first long-term deal with a theater company

Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos told WSJ the move was an effort to prove that its original movies are "not 'TV movies.'" Convincing subscribers that its offerings are of the same quality as theatrical releases has been one of Netflix's challenges — and getting its own films simultaneous theatrical release has proven difficult. When Netflix wanted to debut 2015's Beasts of No Nation online and in theaters at the same time, several major theater chains refused to screen it. And, as WSJ points out, that movie only ended up making about $90,000.

Big theater chains have generally proven resistant to the idea of simultaneous release, even as streaming services gain popularity. The startup Screening Room, which wants to charge people a premium to rent movies at home while they're still playing in theaters, has been met with strong opposition from theater owners. In 2011, when Universal Pictures wanted to let DirecTV subscribers to download the movie Tower Heist after just three weeks in theaters, the movie was boycotted by theaters until Universal changed its mind.

Simultaneous release is possible: in 2013, Shane Carruth managed to get a simultaneous release online for his indie movie Upstream Color after it was only in theaters for a month. Carruth's distribution plan was based on the idea that an initial theater release would legitimize the movie, while an early digital release would help it make more money.

iPic Entertainment screened Netflix's The Little Prince in its theaters earlier this year as part of a trial run, according to WSJ.


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