TIFF Confirms Cineplex Policy Banning Netflix and Amazon From Primary Screening Venue

Exhibitors take the battle over theatrical windows to film festivals as Cineplex bans streamers' TIFF films from the 14-screen Scotiabank.
Scotiabank Theatre and Michal's StoreVarious, Toronto, Canada - Jul 2017
Scotiabank Theatre
Roberto Machado Noa/REX/Shutterstock

The battle between theater operators and Netflix over the streamer’s refusal to abide by traditional theatrical windows has  expanded to the Toronto International Film Festival, where the owner of one of the event’s largest venues ⁠— the Scotiabank Theatre, a multiplex owned by one of Canada’s largest chains⁠ — has told the festival that it will not show any film that is distributed by a streaming service over the festival’s 10-day run.

“Cineplex has been a great partner of TIFF’s for many years,” festival co-directors Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente said in a statement. “This year, new restrictions were put in place in our use of their Scotiabank Theatre during the Festival. As a result, we have scheduled films from streaming services in other venues.”

Amazon declined comment. Cineplex, meanwhile, provided this statement to IndieWire: “There are hundreds of fantastic films screening as part of this year’s festival and with all those options we asked that our screens feature titles from studios who understand and appreciate the importance of the theatrical release model. We have a strong and longstanding partnership with TIFF and are proud of our role in creating memorable theatrical experiences for festivalgoers, now and for years to come.”

The first to note the absence of Netflix titles was Globe and Mail editor Barry Hertz. With 14 screens and 4,500 seats, Scotiabank is the primary venue for non-premiere screenings at TIFF. On Saturday, those included hot films like “Parasite,” “Pain and Glory,” and “Waves.”

Netflix and Amazon’s non-premiere screenings are instead slated at the Bell Lightbox, which has six screens with seating that ranges from 522 to 41 per theater.

Amazon-distributed movies absent from the Scotiabank Theatre are the Cannes Jury Prize-winner “Les Miserables,” Shia LeBeouf memoir “Honey Boy,” Scott Z. Burns’ “The Report,” and “The Aeronauts.” A notable exception is the Amazon-co-financed “The Goldfinch,” which is being distributed by Warner Bros.

Among the eight Netflix titles at TIFF are “Marriage Story,” “The Two Popes,” “The Laundromat” and “My Name Is Dolemite.”

The exclusive 90-day theatrical window has become a life-or-death battleground between streamers and exhibitors. Most recently, Netflix tried — and failed — to get major exhibition chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark to screen Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” offering the compromise of a 45-day window. The chains said they couldn’t go any lower than 75 days, and “The Irishman” will now get a exclusive limited theatrical release on independent screens November 1 before it goes to Netflix November 27.

After following traditional exhibition windows with earlier releases, Amazon has moved to a more Netflix-like model with movies like “The Report” and “The Aeronauts,” both of which will receive two-week theatrical releases before moving to Amazon Prime.

This is a developing story. Check back for further updates. 

Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson contributed to this report. 

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