The release of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend up-ends traditional release platforms, and while its a revolutionary movie, Netflix, IMAX and the Weinstein Company are being targeted as the bad guys, and may find it hard to secure any screens in the United States. Regal and Cinemark state that they flat-out refuse to screen any film that has a day-and-date theatrical and VOD release.
Regal spokesman Russ Nunley explains that he is committed to exhibiting movies on a grand scale:
"While a home video release may be simultaneously performing in certain IMAX locations, at Regal we will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to 3-inch wide on a smart phone. We believe the choice for truly enjoying a magnificent movie is clear."
Cinemark spokesman James Meredith continued:
"Cinemark does not play day-and-date movie releases on any of our screens including the IMAX screens that we operate."
While they have no comment at the moment, AMC is also notorious for refusing to show films in their theaters that debut at the same time on VOD. Theater owners in general have fought a fierce war against efforts by the major studios to shorten the window between any film's theatrical premiere date and their home video or VOD date. The standard is 90 days.
In 2011, Universal was forced to cancel plans to release Tower Heist on VOD three weeks after hitting theaters due to exhibitor boycotts. That same year, Warner Bros., Sony, Universal and 20th Century Fox announced plans to offer VOD 60 days after theatrical release, which was also canceled after theater chains revolted.
IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond claims that he is not trying to endanger traditional theatrical release windows and discussed this move with exhibitors in the days prior to the announcement. He even explains that he convinced Netflix to go with an August 28 release date, because it is at the end of summer, when box office ticket sales are at their lowest. He explains:
"As the world changes we have a duty to experiment with different things. We knew that not everybody would support it. However, we felt that the ability to provide alternative content at a time of year when there is not a lot of great product coming in from the studios helps both our exhibition partners and consumers."
While some U.S. theater chains are still expected to show the film, China is being eyed as the key market, where IMAX will have 200 screens by August of next year. The film is expected to do well in Asian markets, where Netflix does not operate.
While IMAX has contractual rights that require exhibitors to play endorsed content, the company is waiving them for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend because of the sensitivity surrounding the circumstances.
Says Rich Gelfond:
"We're not challenging windows. We're providing alternative content. I personally am convinced a number of exhibitors will play it and view it as a constructive test to supplement their business."
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend comes to theaters August 28th, 2015 and stars Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh, Jason Scott Lee, Harry Shum Jr., Eugenia Yuan, Juju Chan, Chris Pang, Roger Yuan. The film is directed by Woo-ping Yuen.