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Ted Sarandos Attacks Studios and Theaters for Stifling Innovation in Film Independent Forum Keynote Speech (VIDEO)

Box Office
by Anne Thompson
October 27, 2013 1:30 PM
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Ted Sarandos at Film Independent Forum
Ted Sarandos at Film Independent Forum

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos delivered the Executive Keynote address at the 9th annual Film Independent Forum Saturday at the Director Guild Theatre. In the video below, he does not hesitate to target the major studios and theater chains for not seeing things the way he thinks they should.

Sarandos attacks exhibitors for refusing to innovate, going so far as to suggest that they “might kill movies.” He also exhorts the studios to release their movies on Netflix concurrent with their release in theaters. 

“Why not premiere movies on Netflix the same day they’re opening in theaters? 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:

Why not follow with the consumer’s desire to watch things when they want, instead of spending tens of millions of dollars to advertise to people who may not live near a theater, and then make them wait for four or five months before they can even see it? They’re probably going to forget.”

He blamed theater owners for not getting behind the premium VOD model, for resisting any digital release that would compete with their windows. (In fact it's up to independent theaters and distributors to experiment with these models.)

“Theater owners stifle this kind of innovation at every turn. 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.”

He was tougher on theater owners than studios, who are after all are his suppliers and partners: “I don’t blame the studios for what they’re doing and I don’t fault them, because the studios are always trying to innovate."

Sarandos examines the bottom line statistics from the recent studio spending spree that yielded less than stellar return on investment for the summer box office. Meanwhile Netflix is soaring with more than 31.1 million subscribers as it plans to double its spending on original content such as "Orange is the New Black" and "House of Cards," which is winding up shooting Season Two and may return for another go, he suggested.  


  • Andrew S | October 27, 2013 4:54 PMReply

    He's saying premiere status matters to the licensing fee. But, if someone goes immediately to Netflix, their VOD revenue is going to be almost nil. And, the licensing fees they pay for indie films (even premieres) isn't going to come close to recovering the budget of even low-budget indies. So, it gets harder and harder to get investors involved with films since you basically won't make your money back, no matter how low the budget. What's the alternative?

  • Chad b | October 27, 2013 2:16 PMReply

    While he is biased in blaming theater chains because they are his competition, they are to blame. Big chain movie theaters are over priced hell holes. I love movies but the theaters are so crappy and you have to drive so far to go to a good one. People are always talking in the theater too...not sure what should be done about that? Regardless, between the fake IMAX theaters and shity 3D from dim screens, to the 70s decore and crappy seating, Big chain theaters are killing filmmaking.

  • Anne DeAcetis | October 30, 2013 4:14 PM

    Chad B is so on it. I wrote an open letter to John Fithian of the National Association of Theatre Owners essentially saying the same thing. See it here:

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