'Crouching Tiger' sequel to hit Netflix and theaters simultaneously

Movies in theaters also on Netflix?
Movies in theaters also on Netflix?

Mark Aug. 28, 2015 on your calendar: It will be a history-making day for Hollywood.

On that date, Netflix will premiere a feature film -- the sequel to the 2000 hit "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" -- at the same time moviegoers can see it in theaters.

The dual release will be the realization of Netflix's long-held goal to let subscribers see films at the same time they're in movie theaters.

Netflix (NFLX) has achieved its goal by working directly with the Weinstein Company, the independent studio chaired by Bob and Harvey Weinstein. The studio is producing "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend" for both Netflix and the IMAX chain of super-sized theaters.

"The film is to be the first of several major films backed by Netflix to premiere on the same day on the world's leading Internet TV network and in select IMAX theaters globally, giving consumers and exhibitors around the world unparalleled flexibility in how, when and where they enjoy a major motion picture," the companies said in a statement.

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Netflix did not identify the other films, and financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. For now, none of the major Hollywood studios -- like Warner Bros., which like this website is owned by Time Warner, or 20th Century Fox -- appear willing to try a simultaneous streaming and in-theater release.

Such a release would risk the ire of box office partners including AMC and Regal Entertainment that rely on ticket sales.

Executives at Netflix have long been interested in offering films concurrently with their theatrical release. They have portrayed the reigning model -- theaters first, then DVDs, then streaming -- as outdated.

"By the time we could watch a movie in the subscription window, it's a year after it's been in the theater," Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in an interview with CNN earlier this year.

That timing, of course, limits the value of a monthly Netflix subscription.

Movies in theaters also on Netflix?
Movies in theaters also on Netflix?

Defenders of what's known as "windowing" say it maximizes opportunities to recoup financiers' investments in expensive films.

In the interview, Sarandos criticized it as an "antiquated distribution model" and said Netflix was looking at a new model. He compared the idea to the all at once, on-demand release of the drama "House of Cards."

"Maybe in the movie space, we'll do the same thing," he said, "and try to figure out: is there a way that we can, you know, get the movies out there at the same time they're in the theaters? And we'll probably have to make a bet on the programming ourselves to make that work."

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Indeed, that's what Netflix is doing with "The Green Legend," and it's sure to garner lots of publicity for it.

Sarandos told The New York Times that he hoped the partnership with the Weinsteins and Imax would convince others in Hollywood to strike similar deals.

"What I am hoping is that it will be a proof point that the sky doesn't fall," Sarandos said. "These are two different experiences, like going to a football game and watching a football game on TV."

Earlier this year, in a release that foreshadowed Monday's announcement, Netflix streamed a documentary called "The Square" at the same time it was released in a small number of theaters. But that theatrical release took place primarily so that "The Square" could qualify for Academy Awards consideration.

"The Green Legend" is a different arrangement altogether, with higher stakes for the movie industry. The first "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" earned more than $210 million worldwide.

"The moviegoing experience is evolving quickly and profoundly, and Netflix is unquestionably at the forefront of that movement," Harvey Weinstein said in a statement Monday night.

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