Scorsese and De Niro, in the filming of 'The Irish'. José Pérez Cordon Press
When he arrives today at the Spanish theaters The Irish, by Martin Scorsese, will only be released in 45 rooms, 47 screens. Very few, compared to the more than 300 cinemas in which large releases such as Joker, Maleficent 2 or Terminator are projected. Less even than Parasites, from Bong Joon-ho, Palme d'Or from last Cannes, or Rainy Day in New York, by Woody Allen, which after several weeks on the bill can still be seen in about 80 cinemas. Why does one of the great Oscar candidates, another masterpiece of a film genius like Scorsese, enter the billboard in such a bad way? "Because Netflix does not care about the launch to the big screen. That is not your business," two heavyweights of the distribution in Spain respond identically, who prefer to maintain their anonymity. And they underline one fact: The Irish premieres today in cinemas, and on Wednesday 27 – only 12 days later – it will reach the digital platform that has produced it.
To understand this policy, which has led to an underground confrontation between Netflix and the big movie chains, you have to dive into the economy and the usual practices of the Spanish film industry. Between that a movie is released on the big screen and appears on a digital platform or on DVD in Spain 112 days pass. Many if you think of indies films that after two weeks on the bill have to wait a hundred days to access another format. Few if we compare with France, where that window (so called in the sector that time slot) reaches three years. "Netflix is no longer in movie theaters because Netflix doesn't want to," says Borja de Benito, spokesperson for Fece, the Federation of Entities of Cinema Entrepreneurs in Spain, which brings together 80% of Spanish movie theaters, half a thousand premises with more than 3,000 screens. "Its business is for people to subscribe to its platform. Why does it premiere in theaters? Because it has that commitment with some directors and because that is the only way to access the awards. We are living the same Oscar race as with Rome ". In the case of the Alfonso Cuarón drama, in Spain it only premiered in five rooms and nine days before its arrival on the platform.
From the communication department for Spain and Portugal of Netflix, they point out: "We are working with distributors who partnered with us to launch our films in the time that works for Netflix and our members. The release plans are adapted to each film." When the platform began its take off in Spain, its films were distributed by A Contracorriente. From this autumn, the cinema of the platform arrives in theaters through the TriPictures distributor, which responds to EL PAÍS: "The distribution model with Netflix is so different from the conventional distribution model that we are almost out of the equation. Basically what we do is booking with cinemas. " That is, they only serve as a bridge between the American company and cinemas.
The business of movie theaters depends on the percentage that the exhibitors receive from the entrance. The majors, the Hollywood dealers, have the pan by the handle. And so, they stay up to 60% of the collection of the first week. As the weeks of a poster film pass, its percentage decreases and that of the exhibitors increases: hence its 112-day defense – a quantity that is not regulated by law, but is born of a tacit agreement – of exclusivity. In the case of The Irish, only 12 days will pass. On the percentage that it retains of each Netflix ticket, nobody dares to specify it. "We believe that the platform is very unsupportive with the film industry, which is who feeds it. It imposes its conditions, never negotiates," continues de Benito. "The position of Netflix is immovable, in Spain and the United States." Indeed, in the United States and the United Kingdom, the Irish arrived at the halls on November 1, but also in very few rooms, since the big chains have rejected their conditions. "It is that there is no business," says the spokesman for Fece. "We don't tell our associates what they should exhibit or not, and what's more, some will project The Irish, but we do believe that the window works."
To underline that "contempt" of Netflix to theaters, Spanish distributors point to other launches of the platform. The King, a Shakespearean drama with Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson, only went through three cinemas. Klaus, by Sergio Pablos, a children's animation film that could have been a Christmas box office, premiered only in two. Both were part of a distribution package of seven films – two animation, five adults – that Netflix put up for auction at the end of summer, and which took shape at the Toronto festival. "Scorsese's hook was very juicy," says one of the distributors, "and several companies put it to him. TriPictures took it. However, I don't see the business, really. I with only two months of window would have bid ". Why did others enter the race? "Because today for you, I distribute your cinema, tomorrow for me, you buy my films as a producer for your platform. In return, I emphasize that the exhibitors have long memories, and they may penalize you in later releases." Another distributor concludes: "They go to many almost residual rooms, except in Barcelona and Madrid; moreover, none in the Basque Country."
To the secrecy surrounding Netflix, the absence of its box office data is added. However, the rest of the films make the figures public. From the ICAA, the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts, the body that regulates cinema in Spain, they assure: "The rooms have an obligation to give their data to the Ministry of Culture, but there is no same duty to publish them." In any case, to match the sector, from The Irish will appear on the ICAA website collections and viewers of Netflix titles. And so it will be seen if there is business or not in those premieres.