Netflix releases ‘Beast of No Nation’ online and in theaters, movie chains boycott

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First Netflix took on the TV industry with shows like "Orange is the New Black" and "House of Cards," now the streaming media giant is taking on the big screen.

The Netflix movie "Beasts of No Nation" was recognized in film festivals around the world.

On Friday, the online media giant simultaneously released the full-length feature in theaters and on its streaming service to subscribing customers.

"It's amazing to me that I have the film here in my hand, right now, the same day it's opening in theaters," said David Schwartz, Head Curator at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

Schwartz originally screened the movie during the Toronto film festival and said the simultaneous release was a game changer.

"I'd rather watch this movie on the big screen, but I think the fact that anybody with a subscription can watch the film on their device of there choice is really interesting," Schwartz said.

For major movie chains, interesting means scary.

AMC, Regal, and several other chains boycotted the Netflix release.

Schwartz said the major theaters are nervous the narrowing window from movie opening to at home availability could cut into profits.

"Back in the days of VHS tapes movies would come out 6 months or a year after it was in theaters. Now literally a movie is opening the same day that it's available."

At the Sunshine Theater on Houston Street, PIX11 found a couple people who decided to trek to the theater and pay for a ticket just to get the experience.

"It's not quite nostalgic, but it's almost special again. You can listen to a CD in your house but it's still to go see the band," said Netflix subscriber Hanny Ahern, who decided to see the movie in a theater.

The crowds were sparse and with the cost of a ticket almost double the cost of a monthly subscription, some said it wasn't hard to understand why.

"If you can get it that way, why pay to come out here," said Ken Ludmer a local film critic.

Whether Netflix gives the full-length simultaneous release two thumbs up will depend on how many new subscribers they can lure to their service. The company paid $12 million for "Beasts of No Nation", $7 million more than it cost to make the movie.

Abraham Rouzyi said he thought about joining Netflix after he found the company was releasing on its streaming service.

"Yes actually I was for a short period of time, but then I decided I was better off going to the movie theater and watching it for myself," said Abraham Rouzyi.

While theaters will eventually have to improve their experience to justify the cost of a night, or afternoon out. For now Schwartz said the at home or on-the-go experience can't compare to sitting in front of the big screen.

"You can enjoy it on a computer screen or on your phone but you're not in it, it's not immersive," said Schwartz. "You're probably distracted and doing other things while you're watching it if you're watching it at home."

Theaters are trying to improve that experience, Alamo Draft House theaters and Nighthawk Cinema are combining the dinner and a movie experience into one. With companies like Netflix and Amazon getting into the full-length feature competition, more movies will get made.

Schwartz said that several movie studios passed on "Beasts of No Nation" because it was too graphic, now it's in the talk for some academy awards. To receive the awards a movie has to debut in theaters the same time or before its home release. So theater viewing likely won't go away at least until those rules change.