Theater Owners Spokesperson Says A "Robust" Theatrical Release Gives A Film "A Level Of Prestige" That Streaming Can't Offer

In the saga that seems like it will go on forever, it appears that Netflix (and other streaming services) can definitely co-exist peacefully with theater exhibitors. Well, if they stay in their own lane, that is.

Speaking at CinemaCon, a representative for the MPAA (which includes its newest member, the aforementioned Netflix) and someone from NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) talked about the future of film distribution, and it’s exactly the same argument we’ve been hearing for months now.

READ MORE: Julianne Moore, Charlie Hunnam & More Chime In About Netflix Versus Theatrical Experience Debate

“At the MPAA, each of our member companies is evolving, too,” Motion Picture Association of America chairman-CEO Charles Rivkin said (via THR). “And thus, how we pursue our mission of promoting and protecting creativity is evolving.”

He continued, “Recently, that evolution featured Netflix joining the MPAA, adding to our roster of leading global content creators. Here is what I know. We are all stronger advocates for creativity and the entertainment business when we are working together… all of us.”

READ MORE: Steven Spielberg Colleague Says The Filmmaker Denies Any Ill Will Towards Netflix & Says The Original Statement Was “Twisted” Around

While not coming from a Netflix spokesperson, this sentiment is exactly what the streaming service has been saying for a while now. The streamer wants to co-exist with the theater chains, while also being on the forefront of the evolution of film distribution. Basically, Netflix wants its cake and to eat it too. But then again, the streaming service does have public sentiment and an ever-growing list of subscribers on its side.

However, the theater exhibitors want to keep the status quo. As theaters have grown accustomed to larger box office totals, thanks to a (probably unhealthy) reliance on blockbusters, exhibitors don’t want streaming services encroaching on their success, and potentially, stealing away some of these films for themselves.

“All we ask is that powerful movies of all genres, made by content creators who want their work on the big screen, be given the time to reach their full potential in theaters before heading to the home. Theatrical exhibition is the keystone of this industry, and there is no replacement—both artistically and commercially — for the impact of a break‐out hit,” National Association of Theater Owners CEO-president John Fithian said.

READ MORE: Netflix Executive Says Apple & Disney Are “Very Late To The Game” With Their Streaming Services

Those “exclusive theatrical release windows” seem to be the sticking point between the exhibitors and streaming services lately, with Netflix hoping to be able to release a film in theaters with a quick turnaround (most of the time, on the same date) for a streaming launch. Of course, the folks behind-the-scenes at these theaters feel like people will choose to stay home if given the opportunity.

“There’s no doubt that home entertainment consumption moves toward streaming more with each passing day. As large media companies look to establish direct relationships with consumers through streaming platforms — and the options in the home grow — competition for directors and stars who want their work seen on the big screen will only intensify,” he said.

The argument that seems to be working best, so far, is how diluted a release can be if its on a streaming service. With new high-profile TV shows and films hitting Netflix on a weekly basis, how is the latest film from a big name director ever going to get its time to shine if its drowned out by its own competition?

READ MORE: Apple Uses Steven Spielberg, Damien Chazelle, Reese Witherspoon & More To Show Why New TV+ Service Is Netflix…But Better

“In this new climate it’s important to ask, how does any given movie stand out among endless choices in the home?” said Fithian. “Everyone in this room knows the answer to that question: a robust theatrical release provides a level of prestige to a movie that cannot be replicated.”

So it seems that the struggle for power between streaming services and theaters will persist for the near future, as both sides stick to their guns. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in a year’s time, when the big studios like Apple, Disney, and others begin rolling out their own streaming services. We all know that Disney controls a vast majority of the theater revenue. So it very well might come down to the Mouse House to decide the future of the film industry.