Netflix will release original films in iPic theaters

Netflix and the iPic Entertainment theater chain are partnering to release select original Netflix films simultaneously on the streaming service and at iPic Theaters across the country, in a deal that's set off alarms for rival theater owners.

The partnership is set to launch Friday with Netflix's war thriller The Siege of Jadotville, opening at iPic theaters in Los Angeles the same day it's released on the streaming service.

Next up: Christopher Guest's comedy Mascots, in theaters and on Netflix Oct. 13.

"Consumer choice is a pillar of our philosophy and the unparalleled level of comfort and hospitality offered at iPic made this a natural partnership," Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer said in a statement.

Hamid Hashemi, president and CEO of iPic Entertainment, called the deal "a significant game changer for consumers and fans, paving way for a new frontier in shared experience viewing of Netflix entertainment."

The luxury movie chain operates 15 theaters with 113 screens nationwide, including in New York, Miami Beach, Houston and Scottsdale, Ariz. Amenities include chaise lounge seating, cocktails and a "dinner in the dark" menu.

Netflix has previously released its original films in theaters, including 2015's Beast of No Nations, bypassing the exclusive theatrical window viewed as vital to many movie chains. The theatrical showings also make Netflix's original movies eligible for Academy Award consideration.

The country's major theater owners have long been outspoken opponents of simultaneous releases.

"Movie theaters are worried. Netflix is already their biggest competitor right now," says Jeff Bock, analyst for Exhibitor Relations. "This represents a direct hit to their business that shakes them to the core."

John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, criticized the practice.

"Simultaneous release, in practice, has reduced both theatrical and home revenues when it has been tried," Fithian said in a statement. "The theatrical window is a longstanding industry practice that has benefited studios, theaters and moviegoers. We all should tread lightly and be mindful that over the years, the film industry's success is a direct result of a highly successful collaboration between filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors."


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