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IMAX CEO Gelfond: Netflix Was 'Silly' to Think It Doesn't Need Theatrical Releasing

IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the global technology-media-telecom sector, you're always one or two bad earnings reports away from contrition, and a box-office smash or two from bellicose bombast. 

Count IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond in for the latter. 

Coming off an impressive $450 million global box-office opening for Disney-Marvel's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, $18 million of which was made at 410 IMAX locations, Gelfond used an interview with Yahoo Finance to pile onto downed giant Netflix. 

Gelfond said he wasn't at all surprised to hear about Netflix's bummer Q1 earnings report, which sent the company's market cap down 35%. Netflix, Gelfond believes, found out the hard way that it needs the promotional power of the theatrical window to profit off its $17 billion content budget. 

"The theatrical window, particularly IMAX, builds buzz around a property and it creates a cultural event on a global scale. And thinking you could do that and create that kind of excitement without a theatrical release was silly," Gelfond said. 

"As a matter of fact," Gelfond added, "one of the major streamers just told me ... that on streaming, things do better with an exclusive theatrical release. So forget about the money that you're making from the theatrical window, just on streaming, more subscriber, more attention, all things like that — because the theatrical experience really creates an event, particularly the IMAX experience."

Even assuming that Gelfond's narrow premise is correct -- the complex set of market conditions driving down Netflix's growth could be distilled to just a lack or consumer awareness for its movies -- requires a stretch. 

Here's an example as to why:

Plying the average North American movie ticket price to the global market, the latest Dr. Strange generated a weekend audience of around 41 million viewers worldwide.

With comparatively negligible "prints & advertising" costs, Netflix was able to generate a global first-three-days audience for its biggest movie of 2022, Ryan Reynolds comedy-action film The Adam Project, of around 52 million viewers.  

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!