During a virtual panel at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit, Zoradi said the Zach Snyder-directed action movie’s release took shape in recent months. The companies had staged tests in select markets of Netflix movies like Christmas Chronicles 2.
Deeming those tests successful, Zoradi recalled, “We came back to the table and said, ‘What else can we do?’ And ‘Army of the Dead’ came up. It was a little bit short in our timeframe of getting it done, and I think as we go forward we’ll have more time.”
Rolling the tape back, he said, the snarled negotiations over The Irishman would turn out a lot differently in a marketplace like that of 2021, given Covid-19 and the overall boom in streaming. “If that were today, we would find a way to come to an agreement,” he said, given the “patina” theaters can offer many films.
Army starts streaming on Netflix on May 21 and will continue theatrical play at the same time. Given that it is far more of a broad-audience movie than the kind of Oscar bait of The Irishman or Mank, research will be the main goal. Its first week will be exclusive to Cinemark theaters plus a cross-section of mom-and-pop and regional circuits.
“We’re gonna see, how does it do in that week? How does it do the week that it goes into Netflix? We’re going to learn a lot,” Zoradi said.
“We believe there will be several” more Netflix releases down the line, Zoradi said. “We don’t believe it’s going to be a large quantity, but a limited number of their high-profile movies where they want to spend the marketing expenditure, they want theatrical exhibition and what comes along with that. We think that there will be future movies to come. Those might be 14 days, they might be 21 days. I would characterize it as a very progressive and positive relationship with Netflix.”
If Army works, he added, “that could lead to similar discussions with other streaming services. As studios make decisions to take things to their own unique platform, perhaps we’re going to find a way to get some things from the streaming services that we otherwise would not have gotten and give them an important theatrical window.”
He said he has tried to reinforce a central concept to everyone working at Cinemark. “The world isn’t changing relative to theatrical exhibition and distribution,” he said. “The world has changed. So let’s figure out how it’s changed and figure out the right models.”
Asked about the marketplace dynamics when studios withhold titles to deploy them on their own streaming services, CFO Sean Gamble said was “premature” to say smaller films would automatically go to streaming services.
Virtual print fees, which replaced the physical print costs studios long shouldered, “are burning off” now that the digital conversion is complete, Gamble said. “There’s a whole bunch of cost goes away on the studio side” without those fees, he added. “It creates a lot more flexibility in the way we can program movies. There still is a lot of ability for these smaller films as stuff evolves to come to the screens and be able to do that in a more efficient way.”
Some optimists say the next Avengers: Endgame-level megahit could potentially soar even higher without as many titles clogging post-pandemic megaplexes. Asked about that scenario, Zoradi said, “I don’t think we’re going to get to the point in the business where it’s just a blockbuster business. I think there is still room in the theatrical marketplace for independent and arthouse films. I think there’s room in the theatrical realm that could come from streaming. And I think mid-range comedies — it’s amazing, you always think that they’re not going to work and all of a sudden, another big one will come.”
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