The company that has done more than most to disrupt traditional media is taking a page from the industry’s playbook: by giving its original movies increasingly wide releases in theaters. The reason isn’t so much to cash in on their potential box office returns—although that doesn’t hurt. As this story explains, Netflix is required to release the movies into theaters in order to qualify for major awards like the Oscars. And it wants to please directors, who think their movies are best experienced in cinemas.
Does Netflix really want to give its movies wide releases? Debatable. It could run counter to its core subscription business if people choose to see films in theaters rather than sign up for the service. For the directors it’s largely an artistic and ego-driven impulse, but if Netflix wants to win awards it has to cater to those needs. With Netflix set to release some movies this year from directors like Alfonso Cuaron and the Coen Brothers, it has to pull out more stops than it may have thought to please talent and keep itself in the game.