Netflix Egyptian Theater

Netflix is getting into the movie theater business in a big way. The streaming giant has entered into talks with American Cinematheque to buy the historic Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd. On the surface, this looks like the latest step in Netflix’s overarching plan to be taken seriously by the film industry, since many in the business still cringe at Netflix’s streaming-based model. But sources say this is more of a partnership between Netflix and Cinematheque, and not a sign of things to come. We’ll see.

Deadline broke the news on Netflix’s plan to buy the Egyptian Theater. Netflix is hoping this move will raise their profile in the Hollywood community, and show they’re more than just a streaming service. Some industry titans, like Steven Spielberg, have offered something akin to disdain for Netflix, claiming that the only way to really experience a movie is in the hallowed halls of a movie theater, not streaming at home.

The Egytpian has been around since the 1920s, and served as the site of Hollywood’s first movie premiere (for Robin Hood in 1922). I’m already seeing a knee-jerk reaction towards this news among the denizens of Film Twitter, but the more you read the Deadline story, the more you realize this isn’t such a bad thing overall. Per the story:

Both parties look at this as something of a partnership, sources said. Netflix will program its screenings for weekday nights while the Cinematheque runs screenings, lectures and occasional festivals on weekends on an autonomous basis. The organization will be able to expand its programming with the financial resources from this deal. Netflix will hold occasional special screenings and events for some of its splashiest movie launches.

That sounds like a win-win, overall. Cinematheque is a non-profit, and its funds have been severely limited in recent years. This major deal with Netflix will fix that. In addition, Cinematheque will continue to run screenings at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. Still, it would be naive to think Netflix was doing this out of the goodness of their corporate heart. The streaming service wants to rack up awards – especially Oscars. And the best way For Netflix to do that, as far as the Academy is concerned, is to screen their original films theatrically in Hollywood. With this move, they’ll be able to do that in their very own theater.

On top of all this, Deadline’s sources add that “it would be wrong to eye this as the start of a move into the operational theater business.” I find that a little hard to believe, but time will tell.

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