“We are going to expand the movie business for everyone,” said Ted Sarandos today of Netflix’s foray into feature films with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend. “Movie distribution is pretty stuck in old models. A lot of models that the theatre owners have kept in place are outdated,” the Netflix Chief Content Officer added, once again taking a swipe at exhibitors. Sarandos was speaking Wednesday at the 5th annual U.S./China Film Summit on Wednesday in downtown L.A. “We need to stop distinguishing the experience by access,” he added. “Many movies are just as good if not better at home.’
The Netflix exec’s remarks today of course come just over a month after the company announced that it is getting into the original features game with Green Legend. Set to be released on August 28, 2015 and helmed by Yuen Wo-Ping, the kind of sequel to the Oscar winning Ang Lee-directed 2000 martial arts epic is in partnership with The Weinstein Company’s Harvey Weinstein.
“We can monetize it through subscriptions and IMAX can monetize it through ticket sales,” Sarandos said today of the financial rewards of Green Legend, which will be released on Netflix and in select IMAX theaters on the same day.
The announcement of the Green Legend deal in late September spurned a backlash from exhibitors who saw Netflix cutting into their business and cutting them out of the game – a reaction Sarandos also received last year in a speech slamming exhibitors for the long delay between big screen release and small screen windowing.
The move into features is a natural biz decision for the data-run Netflix says the exec. “It’s different for us as we’ve become very focused on television, still a third of all our viewing is movies.” Turning back to TV for a sec, Sarandos also said that he thought the Big 4 networks would soon emulate the Netflix model and stream whole seasons of series simultaneously “ in the next year or two” due to the influence of the streaming company on viewer expectations.
Having said all that, Netflix does not include China or other Asian nations yet among the 50 countries worldwide where it streams currently. That’s an issue but not a big deal for Netflix. “There’s no reason we’re not in Asia yet, it is just as we are evolving,” Sarandos told the crowd of American and Chinese producers. “China is a very complicated market, but it is a large market” that Netflix wants to get into, noting broadband and payment system requirements as a factor as well. “We’ll get there, we’ve got other fish to fry, but we’ll get there.” Sarandos added to applause, “our long term goal is that Netflix is a totally global company.”