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Netflix's Sarandos Backs Off Day-and-Date Comments, Acquires Egyptian Revolution Doc 'The Square' to Premiere on Netflix in Early 2014 (TRAILER)

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by Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna
November 4, 2013 11:24 AM
2 Comments
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"The Square"

As Netflix acquires Jehane Noujaim’s lauded documentary “The Square,” on the Egyptian protest movement, to premiere exclusively on the streaming site in early 2014, the company's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos has backed off his earlier day-and-date stance. This is Netflix's first doc acquisition in several years, potentially pitching the company into the Oscar race, as "The Square" is a contender for a nomination in the documentary category. So far the filmmakers have self-released the doc in theaters, where it opened in New York October 25 and in Los Angeles November 1. Watch the trailer below.

Ted Sarandos at Film Independent Forum

Netflix is not only creating original content for its subscribers ("House of Cards," "Orange is the New Black") but is also acquiring feature films like "The Square." Netflix's Sarandos finds himself on the firing line in the ongoing struggle between theater owners and studios over when a movie should be made available on multiple platforms including Netflix streaming. During his October 26 Film Independent Forum keynote, Sarandos asked why Netflix movies couldn't be released day and date with theater openings. “Why not premiere movies on Netflix the same day they’re opening in theaters?" he asked. "And not little movies. There’s a lot of people and a lot of ways to do that. But why not big movies?” 

He added: “The reason why we may enter this space and try to release some big movies ourselves this way, is because I’m concerned that as theater owners try to strangle innovation and distribution, not only are they going to kill theaters–they might kill movies.”

Following a predictably heated conversation with National Association of Theater Owners president John Fithian, who was not happy with his remarks, Sarandos is backing off. “Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well,” Fithian told Deadline. “The only business that would be helped by day-and-day release to Netflix is Netflix. If Hollywood did what Sarandos suggests, there wouldn’t be many movies left for Netflix’s customers or for anyone else."

In a Q&A on Monday at a Bloomberg event in Los Angeles he said that he wasn't espousing "day and date with Netflix" but rather moving windows up to give customers what they want. Fithian and his constituents won't be happy with that either. 

Winner of this year’s TIFF Documentary People’s Choice Award, “The Square” tells the behind-the-headlines story of the Egyptian Revolution through the eyes of young activists who have sought for the last two years to build a better Egypt.

Here’s an official synopsis:

The film captures the immediacy and intensity of the protests in Tahrir Square from the 2011 overthrow of military leader Hosni Mubarak through the ousting of Mohammed Morsi in 2013, providing a kaleidoscopic, visceral portrait of the events as they unfold before Magdy, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khalid Abdalla, an Egyptian actor who played the lead in “The Kite Runner” and the charismatic Ahmed, whose poetic storytelling carries the narrative.  Armed with nothing more than cameras, social media, deep consciousness, and a resolute commitment to change, these young revolutionaries give us a front-line perspective of the ongoing struggle fought with new weapons.

An earlier version of “The Square” won the Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Our TOH! coverage of Noujaim’s editing process for the film’s new ending is here.


2 Comments

  • John Brownlow | November 5, 2013 7:43 AMReply

    The purpose of making movies is not to support the owners of multiplexes.

  • Anne DeAcetis | November 4, 2013 7:48 PMReply

    Absurd the blustering over the suggestion to reduce or eliminate theatrical windows. John Fithian and NATO are incensed, but all Sarandos is doing is daring NATO to compete by innovating, like everyone else. I can order dinner from restaurants to be delivered to my house every day. But do I still go out to restaurants? Yes. Because the service is better, the atmosphere is more stimulating, the food is hotter/fresher, the experience is premiere. NATO can cry that doing away with theatrical windows would kill movies, but that's only assuming the cinema stays exactly as it is now...crappy and unimaginative, and notably how it has been since the age of the dinosaurs, when many other industries have since reinvented themselves many times over. Theatres can fight modernity or they can focus on improving the tragically lousy in-theatre movie experience and innovate. It doesn’t seem that hard to me to offer something that Netflix could never rival through access alone. See my open letter to Fithian on this subject here: http://bit.ly/1aw5p5z

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