Netflix is getting into the movie theater business and I think it’s a good thing. The streaming service provider recently finalized a lease agreement for the iconic Paris Theater in New York City. Located at West 58th Street near Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the theater has been a New York institution since 1948. It had a reputation for showing foreign language and other unique films. The theater shut down earlier this year before Netflix’s release agreement.
This move saved the iconic theater, but it has other benefits too. Most notably, it gives Netflix a theater to release original movies. This will make Netflix movies eligible for prestigious awards like The Oscars. I think this is a big win for Netflix and streaming as a whole. My colleague Stuart Sweet disagrees, of course. Let’s see if we can come to some kind of consensus…
Buckler: First of all, I think this is great because it preserves a piece of New York City history. I know you think of me as some flannel-shirt-wearing Michigan country boy, but I’ve been to the Big Apple plenty of times. (My uncle is from there.) It’s both amazing and a little sad to see how much it’s changed since the late 1970s and 1980s. I get that progress and time must always march on, but so much history gets bulldozed in the process. I commend Netflix for preserving this little piece of NYC history. Granted, this has nothing to do with streaming, per se, but I think it’s important enough to mention.
Sweet: “You say you’ve been to the Big Apple. Are you sure it wasn’t just Windsor? Or Cleveland? New York City is in the midst of a cultural renaissance that is reshaping the city and yes, some things will be lost. Like, for example, the X-rated theatres in Times Square or the ruthless criminals of Hell’s Kitchen. New York is in every way a better city than it was in the 70s and OK, this theater didn’t survive. It’s in a ridiculously expensive neighborhood and it just couldn’t compete with streaming – and I thought you liked streaming.”
Buckler: Better is a relative term, and I’ve honestly never been to Cleveland. But I’m not about to get caught up in your game, Mr. Sweet. It’s like the old analogy of arguing with someone being like wrestling with a pig in the mud. (In case you’re wondering, you’re the pig in this scenario.) Anyway, I like streaming and still do it, which means I haven’t set foot in a movie theater in years. Call my nostalgic if you must, but I miss that experience.
Sure, other people still go to theaters, but I think much of that magic is lost nowadays. Whether it’s the high ticket and concession prices, or if it’s just easier to stream at home, less people are seeking the theater experience. If Netflix’s experiment with the Paris Theater goes well, it could start an even bigger movement that revitalizes this way of enjoying entertainment.
Sweet: “People don’t go to the theater anymore because theaters aren’t a good way to experience most movies. If you are talking about a big-budget blockbuster sure, but for the kind of movies the Paris is famous for… no way. An 80” 4K television and a comfy chair gives you a much more intimate experience and trust me, the whole point of film is the experience. For the kind of mass-market crap you watch, a theater’s essential. For something meaningful, smaller is better. Go back to streaming.”
Buckler: Go back to streaming? I never stopped. The thing is that most of what I stream these days is practically all original series. It’s all about binge-watching our way through our favorite shows, then waiting around for a year or more for the next season. While that’s great, I miss the one-and-done-fun that you can only get from movies. (I still believe that not every story is meant to be told for years on end.)
Yes, the streaming services make original movies, but these tend to take the backseat to all the popular series. Like I said earlier, having its own movie theater might inspire Netflix to produce more original movies. That’s a good thing because there are many times when I just want a good story that takes just a couple of hours to tell. That’s it. Also, a solid, three-hour movie is always a good way to wrap up a long-running series. Maybe Netflix might do that more now that the movies have once again become important to them.
Sweet: “Are you on dope? Take some time and read about the Paramount decision. There was a time when movie theaters were owned by studios and it was ridiculously anti-competitive. Today, Netflix owns one theatre. Tomorrow, Disney will buy AMC or Regal. The average American goes to three movies a year. By coincidence, Disney releases about three major blockbusters a year under its Pixar, Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars brands. Do we need to make it easier for them to dominate pop culture by giving them the power to shut out other films?
“Oh, I know you want to say ‘But Stuart, what if your beloved AT&T owned a theater for Warner Bros. films?’ Yep, you got me. I’d congratulate them. Because Warner isn’t the overarching, dominant force that Disney is. And when it comes to original content production, I doubt anyone is doing more than Netflix. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.”
Buckler: Now that you mention it, I do hope this venture inspires other streaming services to do the same. I’m glad you mentioned AT&T and Warner Brothers. Could you imagine if that communications giant owned its own movie theaters? Those places could host any number of HBO original movies as well as future Warner Brothers content. Just thinking out loud here, but there could be a Sopranos movie that checks in on “the family” after the events of the final episode. What better place to play such a movie than a theater? I just think there’s so much that could be done with this, especially from the creative minds at HBO, Warner, and AT&T.
Sweet: “I hope people see this for what it is: Netflix spending your money poorly. It’s pretty obvious they’re trying to buy legitimacy. Remember, in order to get an Oscar nod, a studio needs to screen in one theater for seven days. (Right now, that theater has to be in the Los Angeles area because we have theaters in California and they’re better.) Netflix obviously got burned by The Irishman, which is on no one’s Oscar shortlist, and they want to have a theater that’s forced to play their stuff. If they wanted to make a dumb financial decision, they should have just raised their rates again. Seriously, $17 a month for their 4K plan? I hate to say it – I REALLY hate to say it – but even Disney+ is a better value.”
Buckler: You’re saying something about positive about Disney+? I think you’re the one who’s on dope!
…That went about as well as I thought it would, all things considered. Stuart is a hard-headed old codger who’s very stuck in his ways. I’m all for progress but not at the expense of losing the things that have a place in my heart. (Maybe I want the best of both worlds?) What’s more important that what we think is how YOU feel about all this. Feel free to share your feedback in the comments section below. Anything you share is practically guaranteed to be more informative than any of Stuart’s lunatic ramblings.