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Netflix Keeps Buying Great Movies, So It’s a Shame They’re Getting Buried

Is a movie still a movie if it premieres on Netflix?

"Tramps"

“Tramps”

Courtesy of TIFF

Please allow a moment of silence for “Tramps,” Adam Leon’s warm and winsome follow-up to SXSW 2013 winner “Gimme the Loot.” Anchored by a ridiculously charismatic performance from actress Grace Van Patten, Leon’s sweltering, casually modern riff on classic Hollywood comedies like “It Happened One Night” tells the story of two kids who fall in love during a wild goose chase around the outer edges of New York City. It’s delightful stuff, diverting by design but told with the confidence of someone who can endow even the lightest fare with a real sense of weight. It was hardly the most significant thing I saw at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, but watching it on a hot summer day with the lights off and the AC on full blast was one of the most purely enjoyable experiences I had there.

Of course, you’re going to have to take my word for it, because — soon after its premiere — “Tramps” suffered a fate bound to bury its potential: It was bought by Netflix. On Friday, this lovely little movie that I watched on a giant screen, a scrappy gem that required my full attention and rewarded every ounce of it, will quietly be uploaded to a computer server and added to an ever-expanding menu of content in the cloud. I saw it in a theater; you’ll see it buried somewhere between “Iron Fist” and “Sandy Wexler.”

Leon, naturally, had a very different reaction to the news that Netflix had purchased the rights to his second feature. A fascinating recent piece in the New York Times piece revisits the very moment that he was informed of the deal, which was inked without his participation (it’s not unusual or sinister for a director to be distanced from such negotiations). “I was literally crying in the hotel room,” Leon is quoted saying. “I was given so much opportunity by the people I worked with, and now it was going to work for them, and for all the people who invested in it.” “Gimme the Loot” grossed $104,000; “Tramps” was reportedly sold for $2 million.

It’s almost impossible to blame Leon for his relief, for the joy he felt upon learning that everyone who supported him would be made whole. The vast majority of filmmakers simply can’t afford to fight the power, they’re not in a position to resist. Even a name-brand iconoclast like James Gray, whose latest film is a well-appointed 35mm epic co-starring Robert Pattinson, is still struggling to pay his bills. It’s old news: The middle of the movie industry has fallen out, and everyone needs to jump to one side or the other if they don’t want to get swallowed into the void.

Leon, who surely learned some lessons from the process of shepherding “Gimme the Loot” into the world, is just trying to stay on his feet. “I did not want ‘Tramps’ to be subject to a ‘Let’s put it in a random theater for a week to placate the filmmaker’ approach,” he said. “I want Netflix to do what Netflix does, which is to put a film out there in a way that will help you find its audience.”

Alas, that is not what Netflix does.

Netflix doesn’t help movies find an audience any more than it helps audiences find a movie (not that filmmakers ever have any idea how many people are watching their work on Netflix — the company refuses to share data with its content suppliers, meaning that Leon will have to trawl social media to glean even a vague idea of whether or not “Tramps” is being seen). The streaming service is a volatile sea of content that likes to measure itself in terms of dimension rather than depth; pull up the homepage, and the first thing you’ll see is text boasting about the sheer number of new shows that have been added to the site in the past week. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet that stretches further than the eye can see, and most people are likely to lose their appetite before they discover the good stuff.

In fact, Netflix recently took steps to make it even more difficult for customers to find what they crave or stumble upon new delights, as the company made the myopic decision to replace its somewhat worthless star ratings with a completely worthless “thumbs up / thumbs down” approach. Good luck finding your way around that buffet when all of the food is divided into “good” and “rotten.”

melanie lynskey and elijah wood in i don't feel at home in this world anymore

“I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.’

I don’t know if Netflix has the power to kill the movies, but the last few months have made one thing incredibly clear: Netflix certainly has the power to kill their movies, and it’s doing that with extreme prejudice. It’s not a distributor; it’s a graveyard with unlimited viewing hours. Netflix doesn’t release movies, it inters them.

And the problem is getting worse, because the movies that Netflix is buying — and funding — are getting better. When the company first got into the original features game with Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation,” the tepid response wasn’t much of a concern; the roll-out was a mess, and most theaters refused to play a movie that was premiering day-and-date with a streaming service, but the assumption was that Netflix would learn from their mistakes and better serve their filmmakers.

Cut to: Sundance 2017, when Netflix rolled up to the festival with several of the program’s most exciting titles already in its back pocket. One such title was Macon Blair’s giddily good “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.,” which would go on to win the coveted Grand Jury Prize, joining the ranks of films like “Whiplash” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Not only did the victory lend the streaming giant some much-needed credibility in the indie universe, it also gave them the opportunity to champion Blair as a major talent, and build some momentum for his next collaboration with “Green Room” director Jeremy Saulnier (which the streaming giant will eventually release). Surely they would make the most of it, right? Of course not. Netflix quietly uploaded the movie onto their platform in the middle of the night like it was a new episode of “Fuller House.”

Now, with new films from Bong Joon-ho and even Martin Scorsese on the horizon, the problem isn’t that few people will see “Tramps” — the problem is that even the people who do see “Tramps” won’t really see “Tramps.”

Last Thursday, when it was announced that this year’s Cannes lineup would be the first to include films that were funded or owned by Netflix, The Federation of French Cinemas saw rouge. Frustrated at how brazenly Netflix continues to violate national regulations (which mandate that SVOD services must wait 36 months after a film’s theatrical premiere before they can stream it for themselves), the FNCF took a swipe at Cannes’ credibility, suggesting that an online-only release would “Call into question [a movie’s] nature as a cinematographic work.” It’s hard to imagine a more grievous charge that could be leveled against the world’s most prestigious film festival.

Tilda Swinton, "Okja"

“Okja”

Netflix

If a movie premieres on Netflix, is it still even a movie? In an age where the word “film” is often a misnomer and content is classified less by the intent of its production than by the means of its distribution, it could be said that movies — at least for the time being — are simply things that play in movie theaters. It may seem like a matter of semantics, but I think we’re talking about qualitatively different experiences. When Netflix buys a movie, it guarantees that the vast majority of people will never get to see it in its full glory. It’s the equivalent of a museum buying a work of art, locking it in a vault, and making photocopies so widely available that people lose sight of the fact that they’re missing out on the real thing.

When you watch something on Netflix, are you watching a movie, or are you having a movie-like experience? Netflix is aware of this conundrum, and it has made some half-hearted strides to address the issue, even if its motivation is as unclear as its viewing numbers. Last year, the service signed a 10-picture, day-and-date deal with iPic, an 120-screen luxury theater chain that has positioned itself as something of an Alamo Drafthouse for wealthy people who don’t give a shit about movies. Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told the Wall Street Journal that the deal was an effort to prove that its original features are “not TV movies.”

It’s easy to appreciate what he means by that, but the quality of the films is becoming less and less of an issue. The problem isn’t that Netflix Originals are TV movies, the problem is that — more often than not — they’re laptop movies, or iPhone movies, or watch-out-of-one-eye-while-checking-Twitter movies. And while that may be the ultimate fate of all video content in this day and age, Netflix Originals never get the chance to be anything more.

Netflix shouldn’t be worried that it’s releasing TV movies. The platform should be worried that they’re not releasing movies at all. Business is business and time marches on, but until Netflix decides that it genuinely cares about its content, audiences will never truly find their films. In the meantime, it will continue to be a little heartbreaking every time Netflix buys a movie and turns it into something else.

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Comments

old

When you are old like me…and a lot of the movies you love are out of print or will never be restored. You may appreciate anyone willing to have a spot for you to watch, when you want.

JoeS

Had this exchange with some Netflix defenders where dared him simply: “Name ONE movie that was released only on Netflix that the general public knows about”. Nobody could come up with even ONE. All their answers were movies that got at least some theatrical release. And, even 99% of the movies that Netflix allows at least a week in theaters are largely unknown to the public – no matter how good they may be.

    Naomi

    Name one obscure indie darling with a limited NY/LA release that the general public knows about. Lord forbid someone other than enlightened coasters get to watch a movie before three years have passed. Puhleaze.

      Thomas

      Eh, putting “obscure” in there kind of tilts the comparison. But you’re right—the general public doesn’t know about the films of Lav Diaz or Tsai Ming-Liang, and that’s not gonna change no matter who distributes them.

      On the other hand, the “indie” branches of the big studios have distributed “smaller” films that have entered the public consciousness. Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, and even newcomers like A24 have released films that have made a much bigger stir than any of Netflix’ features so far. (Someone in the comments below mentioned a perfect recent example: “Get Out.”)

      JoeS

      MOONLIGHT is just the kind of movie that would have had an LA/NYC limited release if it hadn’t broke out. It won Best Picture. Your turn. Name a similarly popular Netflix only flick.

        N K

        Netflix actually wants to release at least their premiere properties to theaters. The theater chains are fighting this to the death. There have been some that tried and got blackballed/pressured into stopping, currently the article says the tiny ipics chain is showing some of them.

        Aren’t more people paying for movies a good thing that leads to more movies? Sure, it’s fun to go to a theater, but I do it less and less over time, just the big ones.

      Cosette

      How does one name an 9bscure movie the general publuc knows about? By definition, it wouldn’t be obscure.

Netflix is only for watching The Office

Netflix is garbage. I understand it being a platform for re-releasing stuff but it’s degrading to newer movies. I’m not going to sit at home and watch a shitty H264 get streamed over netflix when I can go to a theater and watch a high bitrate/bitdepth DCP. Someone should ask the DP and colorist what they think about how all the hard work they put into a movie gets compressed into a tiny shit rectangle for Netflix.

Joseph Moore

I don’t think there is an inherent problem with a “movie” never going to a theater – the home experience gets better and better and better – but Netflix’s ability to surface good content, even Netflix’ own proprietary content, is the service’s Achilles heel.

Michael Yodice

For me personally, A person who is not in any way shape or form in the film industry ( critics, news , etc.) Netflix is great. Some of the films that Netflix bought/produced are films that i’d honestly never would have seen in theatres. I’m busy. I can’t go to the theatre all the time. Is that an excuse? Probably not. But it’s mine. I’m not going to argue that these films should not be seen in theatre. All films are better in theatres. It’s just that this service introduced me to a many films that i would have never seen. Especially their branded “Netflix Original” films. I truly think that people close to the film industry take for granted how easily accessible films are for them. Hell, it’s part of their jobs. If Netflix can take a film that wasn’t gonna do great in theatres and make it (somewhat) accessible to the millions of Netflix subscribers…. Then i’m 100% with the that. But I do agree with with David here that they need to gives these films more respect and effort.

Leonardo

I live in Mexico, not in the capital but in a small town, and guess what, the theatrical distribution of the kind of movies that Netflix is acquiring is either null or limited to the big states, or it takes it sweet time coming here, Snowpiercer didn’t got to a theater near me until late 2015. I know is not the same than being in a movie theather but from not watching them at all (or watching them in awful pirated quality) to watching them in my house, i think i can sacrifice the theater experience.

I do give you that they use the same promotion as their series, that means they relly a lot on Word-of-mouth marketing, which can be good for a tv show is just not all that for a movie.

Don

I enjoyed this piece till it went full old-man-yells-at-cloud about the sanctity of movie watching and the theater and blah blah blah.

TD Spinner

I’m with Don. There are parts of this I agree with, like…why change the rating system. 1-5 stars is WAY better than thumbs up/thumbs down. Why’s everything gotta use the silly Facebook-esque “like” feature? And of course Netflix could be doing WAY better promoting movies they purchase…if some of these supposedly excellent movies got half the exposure of Stranger Things, they’d be rolling in it.

But man, you know what? My monthly subscription to Netflix is less than the cost of a single movie ticket. Maybe it’s not the IDEAL situation with which to watch movies, but it’s WAY cheaper. I watch a LOT of movies, and I sure as heck don’t have the cash to go to the theater every day, or every other day. And actually getting to the theater expends more resources than the ticket cost, like…bus money, extra time, and the almost irresistible need for popcorn and an ICEE. Not to mention that movies can be comforting, and if you’re not feeling well, as someone with chronic illness may experience often, you might not even have the energy to go to a movie. Not to mention that, hey, movie theaters don’t have the selection Netflix does. Obviously.

Would I prefer to see movies in theaters? Absolutely. Can I afford it? Not really. Netflix has a lot of room for improvement, but maybe leave your judgment about how people choose to access or are able to access movies out of it.

Steven Millan

If I were a filmmaker,I wouldn’t sell my film to Netflix,no matter how much massive amounts of money they offer,since they don’t plan on having DVD/Blu ray companies acquiring those very films(as in the cases of both Mike Flanagan’s HUSH and CROUCHING TIGER,HIDDEN DRAGON:SWORD OF DESTINY) and DVD/Blu ray(along with cable television) are still as much very important sources of giving any film its longevity in both financial gain and film existence as movie theaters.

LP

This feels like a very long rant. It almost feels like the writers issue is not really about movies being “buried in the Netflix catalog”, but more about him not being able to watch his precious indie movie as god intended movies to be watched. Personally I probably wouldn’t go see this movie in a theater. Not because it’s not good or because I’m not interested but more because of time. Netflix gives me the opportunity to watch this type of movie. I’m not sure how many people are like myself but I tend to go online and read about interesting movies then look them up to see if Netflix is carrying it. I do think Netflix needs to do a better job of promoting these movies. I guess the real question should be, “will more people see this movie on Netflix or in the short theatrical run?”

JSintheStates

Mr Ehrlich. Shill for the mega billion $ cinema conglomerate if you must, but you’ve got no gripe with Netflix. Movies cost $20 a pop; Netflix costs a household $10 a month. 100s of millions of subscribers get to view as many movies as they can for 30¢ a day! Nothing is getting buried! The consumers of movies win, win, win!!! P.S. Please feel free to join the 21st century when you get over your tantrum!

Victor DiGiovanni

How ridiculous that we’re still holding on to the quaint fantasy that a “movie” has to be seen on a screen in a theater. The top priority of any film is to be SEEN. By PEOPLE. I want anything I make to be seen by as many people as can see it. I want any and all potential fans, wherever they may be, to see my film no matter what screen they want to watch it on! Good grief! I can promise that any and all articles like this are written only by people who live in New York or L.A. or somewhere that has a few theaters that will actually show these super-indie features. If any of these writers had to actually read story after story about these great films and know they won’t get to see them unless and until Netflix or Amazon buys them, they’d be singing a different tune. And if we were still fully in the old days, meaning a distributor buys a film and then months later has a small NY/LA theatrical run, and then a few months later a DVD might come out, by then, I’ve long since cooled on seeing it.

Yes, it would be nice if all movies were able to play in majestic theaters in front of knowledgeable cinephiles, but those elitist days are thankfully over. I DO thank this article for pointing out these films and moving them to the top of my Netflix queue. Do more of that! Get the word out on those films that all of a sudden, the ENTIRE WORLD can see RIGHT NOW.

Why is this even a discussion??

Joe Dante

Although I applaud the fact that more movies are available to be seen than ever before in my lifetime, as a filmmaker who grew up watching movies in theaters I mourn the passing of the idea of movies as a shared experience with an audience. No comedy or even horror film is as effective watched alone as it is with a receptive audience. People who don’t “get” The Marx Brothers, for instance, have never seen the movies properly if they’ve only seen them on tv. The comics took their scripts on the road in front of live audiences to gauge where the laughs were, and the left pauses in the filmed scenes to leave space for the audience reactions. Without an audience those pauses are just dead air. Sure, movies can be appreciated in private as a dvd or streaming experience, and for many in today’s environment that’s the only way they’re able to access these pictures.
But I think we’ve lost something social along the way that’s part of the reason movies have endured as a vital part of the world scene and why we love them.

    squeesh

    I still love going to the movies–some films, like the The Fate Of The Furious, and Mad Max:Fury Road, are way better seen on the big screen. That being said,I’ll see a film any way I can see it, since there are so many moe options for seeing good indie films and foreign films you’re never heard of because they never got a U.S. distribution deal. I enjoy watching things on Netflix—it’s basically more films and shows to see in one place than I ever could have imagined over 2 decades ago. I’m old enough to remember when the only places you could see a movie was at the theatre, or months later on TV (this was before even moves were available to rent on videotapes (yeah, I’m old and decrepit,lol—just kidding!) The author just seem to think that Netflix doen’t push films like it should, but apparenlty it’s trying to change that in some ways.

John

In what world is some tiny NY/LA only theatrical release better than being released on a platform with a potential audience of millions of people?

    Andrada

    Because that “potential audience” is exactly what it will be for many films: an unfulfilled potential. That’s the point this article is trying to make, if you do nothing to promote them they will get buried under huge amounts of content.

Abe

Actually, you fundamentally misunderstand the reason for changing to thumbs up/down. As a data scientist (me), I assure you that switching will result in better recommendations, and is vastly more likely to find unusual recommendations like those you mention here. From a data science perspective the five star system was fundamentally flawed. It produced poorer recommendations, and fewer of them. And it was mostly only successful at offering mainstream recommendations. Thumbs up/down is only being adopted because it will give consumers more of what they want: more, better recommendations, and recommendations outside of the mainstream. Lastly, they will get a lot more thumbs up/down ratings by users because it’s much easier for users to decide if they liked or disliked something than it is to decide if it as one, two, three, four, or five stars. Many users just decide they can’t decide and don’t rate what they’ve watched. Netflix needs this data to help make better recommendations for everyone. So… Educate yourself next time, k?

    Kissellian

    I would actually really like to hear how the thumbs up/down gives me better recommendations (even if it is theoretical), because it seems counter intuitive to get more specific results from a less sensitive measurement system. As well, right now, many movies simply do not give me a percentage match when I scroll over them, and in my queue, I used to have a star rating that was Netflix’s guess at what I would rate it. Now, nothing has replaced that, so I feel a bit lost when trying to decide what to watch that night. Personally, I have found the exact opposite in relation to my own ratings. I often have trouble deciding whether to give something a thumbs up or down when I kind of, sort of liked it. Thus, I have been less likely to rate things now than in the previous system.

Sarahrp

Maybe they should put M*A*S*H back on.

Jackie

I thought this was brilliant and incisive commentary, the kind of thing I come to indiewire to read. Netflix is turning cinema, to quote a critic, into a gas station video store. I understand the temptation to avoid long, unpaid press jags, and the extreme desire to repay investors, but, if history is any indication, you will be hard pressed to see a more extreme difference between the response to Leon’s two features. Thanks for speaking out.

Frederic

Just a clarification on the French issue : Netflix does not violate the 36-month rule because this rule only applies to films that are released in theatres. Netflix Original films are not released in theatres in France and so, they do not need to wait for 36 months to be available on SVOD platforms. Exhibitors did not care about Netflix Original films up to the point that two of them got into Cannes Film Festival. Had they not been in Cannes, the FNCF would have done exactly the same as they’ve been doing since the arrival of Netflix in France : mock those films and write them off as “so bad no one wanted to release them in theatres”. That particular wind is changing.

Smirkie

A perfect case study would be if a film like Get Out was released on Netflix vs in theaters, because it also appears on the surface to be the kind of film that would be unceremoniously dumped onto Netflix, but would it have still been the sensation it was?

The reason that film was propelled to the top of the national conversation was in a large part due to ticket sales and box office performance, which then ignited a firestorm of press coverage and buzz. In other words, people started hearing how well this movie is doing, wanted to see for themselves, went out there and bought tickets, causing more people to go out there, more box office, more conversation, more press coverage, and made a star out of Jordan Peele, who will now be on everyone’s radar in the future.

I really can’t see how all that would’ve happened had Get Out been surrounded by everything else on Netflix, like “Honey, let’s crank up the laptop to watch Get out — wait, forget it, there’s Sandy Wexler!”

    hi and bye

    This is a flawed argument. Case and point: Strangers Things. Word of mouth exists for netflix too.

John Schubert

So tired of the Netflix bashing. I rarely go to movies so I’m grateful to Netflix and Amazon offering films on their sites. If people don’t like Netflix my suggestion is don’t watch it. For me, I welcome the opportunity to watch films or tv series that I wouldn’t otherwise see. In fact, most original Netflix programming is better than the drivel that appears on Commercial TV.

Mark

WOW! That whole article felt like a long conversation with my grandfather. I remember him arguing AGAINST cell phones WAAAAAAAYYYYYYY back in 1998. And hey, my Mom FINALLY got a smartphone! Of course, now I have daily calls trying to teach her how to use it, but hey, it’s progress. So yeah, this article was like a rant against the “good ole days” when people went to movie theaters to see movies. Or should i say ONLY to movie theaters.

For me, my movie theater days ended when I bought my first projection TV. A whopping 65″. I could curl up on my couch and watch a $13 DVD, eat really GOOD popcorn and enjoy an experience 100 times better than those cramped, uncomfortable, germ-infested seats at the local multiplex, where the picture actually *seemed* smaller than my TV. And for less money with parking and snacks at a 1000% markup.

And I guess the author didn’t really understand how the filmmaker was literally in tears over the $2 million paid by Netflix when his previous movie (released in theaters) returned around $100,000.

Yeah…so rage on against the future and reminisce about by gone days when theaters weren’t on the edge of obsolescence.

By the way, Gramps, I typed this on my phone!

Thomas

I’m not anti-Netflix, but I do think it’s overrated as “the ultimate solution for movie watching.” The problem is that people mistake breadth for depth—they see that there are thousands of thousands of movies and shows they’ve never even heard of in their catalog, so they assume that Netflix has “like, everything.”

I put it this way: Netflix can be great if you’re just looking for “something” to watch. But it’s pretty terrible if you’re looking for a specific title. I usually know what I want to watch ahead of time, and a good 95%+ of the movies I’m interested in (old and new, foreign, indie, and mainstream Hollywood) aren’t on there (or Amazon, or Hulu, or…) Which is why I’m one of those relics who still rents and buys DVDs and Blu-rays.

As for the “screening experience”—you don’t have to watch Netflix on a cell phone while you’re reading articles and watching cat videos on your laptop. Personally, when I do find something to watch on there, I treat it like any DVD or Blu-ray—I put my phone away, pull up my chair, and turn off the lights. (Streaming video looks terrible on my projector, so I stick with my 40” TV.)

Jeffrey Green

It’s nice that you’re helping us find theses films. Netflix and the other providers need a little consultation, perhaps?

Kate

There is a lot going on here, but the main argument seems to be that great new movies get buried in Netflix’s platform/promotion model. Perhaps critics need to pick up the slack in highlighting the great films that are out there. Many outlets already produce such content (like Paste, Collider, and plenty of others).

Great films can easily get lost in theatrical distribution as well. I’m more plugged into the movie world than the average viewer, but I still manage to miss theatrical releases because some films come and go so quickly.

Netflix and other streaming services at least give smaller films a longer period of time to capture an audience. If the issue is helping them find this audience on a streaming service… let’s work on that problem.

JoeS

There’s more than a bit of talking past one another here on this thread. Very few folks outside of the most ardent cinefiles would say that there isn’t a place for Straight to VOD features. There has been a thriving Straight to Video market since the 1980s with VHS tape.

The point the article is making is that Netflix is doing it wrong. They are dumping even worthy movies into a meat grinder of hundreds of titles where the distinction between a feature film of merit and the 27th episode of some TV series that 1% of the country has even heard about — is negligible.

At least Amazon makes a play to get their features in theaters and brands them as Theatrical Features. Netflix seems to be in the business of just buying ‘product’ so they can fill their cues with title after title. After a while, they just dump them from their logs entirely. I was looking for a couple of Documentaries that Netflix released – and, couldn’t find them on their current list. One of them was even Oscar Nominated! Really?? You get an Academy Award nomination and don’t keep the movie on your current streaming list?!! I actually had to go to an old fashioned Video Store to rent the title! (Luckily, I live in a major city that still has them)

Joe

I get the argument about Netflix being a big heap of content, but on the contrary, arguing for a theatrical release for a small indie film against a Netflix release feels like more of an argument for the purity of theater than for actual reach. Even if it does get buried in other content, it still reaches a bigger audience. A lot of filmmakers get lucky having a digital release because it’s the best they can hope for, but with a film like this, even if it’s better than the average indie, it’s still likely to get passed over by general audiences. Even Oscar nominated Indies like Moonlight go unseen by most audiences. The fact that Netflix is an in home service and will likely feature this film as a highlight, as they do with all bug purchases, means it’s likely to reach a wider audience. More people are inclined to tune in than to leave home, spend $15, and everything that comes with going to theater. In an age where entertainment is consumptive and fleeting in nature, a venue like Netflix has to be valued as a positive way to reach people. It’s​ really just a reflection of current audiences. Believing in the purity and integrity of theater doesn’t do much for the filmmaker when they’re trying to get people to watch their movie.

Jeff McMahon

For me, the cinema is the ultimate story experience (outside of a live stage performance – but that’s a different type of experience), particularly when the there is packed and we sit around the campfire and are all whisked away to another world. Doesn’t happen in the home theatre or lounge room or computer no matter how big the screen is. If one wants to write for online content do so but don’t pretend it’s cinema.

Jeff McMahon

The word “there’ in previous comment was typed as “theatre’ but I’ve a feeling some sort of corrective text system came into play.

Ryan Good

What the David Ehrlich is actually saying: “I live in New York and/or LA and get to see pretty much whatever Indie movie I want to see in cinemas (as they were meant to be!). It is a travesty that my cinematic experience has been ruined just so that the vast, vast majority of North America can have access to a film they would likely have no chance to see in cinemas anyway (or on video outside of Itunes or the evils of streaming)”.
Films get buried in Netflix? Geez if only there were some kind of online content providers that could champion a film by perhaps writing an article about it. I recently read something about a movie called “Tramps”… not sure where.

    Rupert

    Just watched it. Loved it. Thanks for the heads up David.

Guy

This is an emotional vs practical argument. Emotionally, sure it would feel great to have your film in theaters alongside the next Star Wars. However,that’s just a fleeting joy after its’ 1 or 2(if you’re lucky) week run to then gets buried in the many VOD sites.

Practically, these films are a success regardless of how many people see them. They’ve payed back their investors and made a profit, reached a huge audience, and are somewhat easy to find anytime in the future. Unfortunately movies are a business when all is said and done.

QuintoBlanco

It’s difficult to understand the point of this article. Surely it’s a good thing that high quality content is made available to hundreds of millions of people? Even though I live near an arthouse cinema, getting access to stuff other than mainstream movies with a big marketing budget used to be extremely difficult.
The Netflix algorithms do a decent job of alerting me to new movies that I might find interesting and the image quality is excellent, slightly below Blu-ray quality, but massively above DVD quality.

Jack

Some people are film snobs and have to see films in the theater. The vast majority of people don’t care and they’ve been voting with their wallets the pst several years and enjoying movies at home. Netflix didn’t create this situation, the market did. They are just serving it extremely well.

William Spiritdancer

You guys need to get over the theater as some kind of magic place. You are too attached to that form of distribution and that’s ALL it is, a form of distribution and a limited one at that. Theaters were made because back in the day before the internet, dvd’s vhs and streaming, that was the ONLY way you could see a movie. I hate going to the theater to see a movie. If it’s a drama, which most indies are, I am just as happy to see it at home or on my computer or phone. The only movies I want to see in a theater are big blockbuster films that must be seen in a theater like Star Wars or Avatar.

Also we need to get over theatrical films as some kind of holy grail of cinema. The only reason we had 2 hour theatrical release movies was because people were used to going to see plays at the theater and then movies came along to replace that. Now we have so many more options. There are so many options for today’s filmmaker beyond the 2 hour movie. You can now tell your story anyway you want. short film, movie, mini series, original series or a mix of the two.

It’s 2017 and time to get out of some nostalgic cinematic box from the 20th century and get with the program!

Celina

I watched ‘I don’t feel at home in this world anymore’ and have been planning to check out ‘Tramps’ after coming across both on Netflix. I never would have known about these titles otherwise. And Netflix managed to put them prominently enough in front of me, someone who would appreciate them. As a film maker, I’d certainly appreciate that.

Victor DiGiovanni

I missed seeing “Get Out” during its initial buzz, and now that I want to as it, the only option is one local theater playing it at 10:45pm every night. That highlights the biggest problem I have with the theater experience, is that if the available times for a film don’t line up with my work or other obligations, I just won’t get to see it until a few months later, long after my initial excitement for the movie has faded. The beauty of Netflix and Amazon, et al, is that I can read about a movie is never heard of, even in an article damming Netflix, and immediately watch that movie on Netflix. Or at least schedule a time to watch it that lines up with my life. I probably miss twenty minutes each year (even the big ones) simply because I can’t make my schedule fit with the five or six times the film is shown in a given day.

    Victor DiGiovanni

    (correcting the incorrect autocorrects)
    I missed seeing “Get Out” during its initial buzz, and now that I want to see it, the only option is one local theater playing it at 10:45pm every night. That highlights the biggest problem I have with the theater experience, is that if the available times for a film don’t line up with my work or other obligations, I just won’t get to see it until a few months later, long after my initial excitement for the movie has faded. The beauty of Netflix and Amazon, et al, is that I can read about a movie I’d never heard of, even in an article damning Netflix, and immediately watch that movie ON Netflix. Or at least schedule a time to watch it that lines up with my life. I probably miss twenty movies each year (including some big ones) simply because I can’t make my schedule fit with the five or six times the film is shown in a given day.

Victor DiGiovanni

(Agree with earlier comment that some sort of internal autocorrect is happening, as there are several words in here that I made sure were accurate that are now spelled differently or completely changed.)

VN

You should think about interviewing someone from Netflix’ product team. The way they are rolling out their indie films is actually way more thoughtful than you’re giving them credit for. It’s engineered for a much more robust longtail, than the big initial splash a traditional theatrical release needs.

Sarit

For me Netflix is a godsend solution for watching movies. As a hard-of-hearing person, I could only watch foreign films (i.e., non-English speaking films, with subtitles in English) in the theater. Thanks to Netflix and its subtitles in English option, I can finally watch and understand movies in English that were previously inaccessible to me!

Cosette

What adds to the problem for me is the loss of the ability (as a Roku user) to leisurely browse for something to watch. It was a great way to find something unexpected. I can no longer read summaries, since Netflix replaces them after 2 seconds with the movie/show itself. Opening music and title cards do not give me information; synopses do. The attempt to dumb the experience down and push you into starting the movie has killed Netflix for me. I feel like all they want is to push you into watching what they are promoting, but if you dare to refuse, they just want to demand you start watching anything immediately. For me, this just means I stopped watching Netflix altogether. The experience is so miserable; it is so jarring to have music blare at you when you’re tryi g to read and so frustrating to try to read a summary in 2 seconds, I just choose YouTube and awful ads instead.

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