IMAX CEO says ‘the debate about theatrical windows is over’

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Streamers now see the value in theatrical windows, according to the head of IMAX – and that’s not going to change.

This week has been a tough one for Disney, with the markets reacting badly to its continued outlay on its Disney+ streaming platform, even though the service racked up more subscribers that projected. For investors, the picture seemingly looks far too similar to the Netflix model and over this past year, we’ve seen that approach come undone.

Perhaps that was in the mind of IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond as he pointed out that streamers have been ignoring the importance of the theatrical window to their detriment in a new interview. “The debate is over”, Gelfond said in an interview with Yahoo Finance Live. “The argument that you can skip a theatrical window and make up for it on streaming just isn’t true. The theatrical window is more essential than ever to get the streaming revenue.”

The IMAX CEO referenced the success of Top Gun: Maverick over the summer breaking records and becoming Paramount’s biggest worldwide grossing film. “So that $1.5 billion not only didn’t distract from the streaming revenue — it added to it,” Gelfond remarked, also adding that “almost every streamer has now said they recognise the need for theatrical release.”

Disney in particular has been particularly keen of late to continue eroding theatrical windows, especially in France where its attempts are part of the reason the national film industry has become seriously destabilised. Gelton’s comments make clear that when used thoughtfully, the theatrical window can increase demand for a film significantly through much of its lifespan.

Will streamers take heed though? Netflix certainly seems to be giving theatrical releases more due, although we’ll see how things pan out through out 2023. With the Supreme Court in the US overturning the 1948 Paramount Decree a couple of years ago, meaning that studios can once again own cinema chains, we wonder if that might be the next step for streamers to control theatrical windows in ways that benefit them.

We wait and see.

Image: BigStock

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