Will Netflix be the Phoenix arising form the ashes of Theatrical Distribution?

By Bob Schultz

AMC, the world’s largest theater chain, is in the midst of a financial freefall, with it’s stock prices dropping 26% in one day last week. Is this the beginning of the end for traditional theatrical exhibition on a mass scale?

For better or worse (I would argue for much, much better), the growth of the Internet and subsequent worldwide reliance on it have fractured the route to market for entertainment content. Cinemas are fighting for their lives.

With very few exceptions (Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy 2), each release of the 2017 Summer season has been a lackluster blockbuster. Cinemas that cling to the traditional experience – with their high operating expenses and constant assault from other entertainment options – are on the tumble.

The cinemas that continue to thrive cater to the cinephile, with special screenings of beloved movies, expanded food options, and by cultivating a sense of community, no easy feat among a base who likes to sit in the dark and all face in the same direction. This is why existing IP, remakes, and sequels rule the cinema. They come with an existing community of fans.

Meanwhile, streaming of movies and television continues to expand. Disney just announced their plans to stream on their own service, giving them control from conception to reception, and every revenue stream along the way.

Netflix still leads the way worldwide, anticipating every trend from DVD delivery (effectively killing the brick and mortar video rental market) to streaming (effectively killing physical media as a whole), and in recent years, moving in to producing their own content, predating Disney’s service by years. Projects like ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, STRANGER THINGS, NARCOS, and WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY get all the creative and business attention now. They are even endeavoring to bring back the three-camera sitcom by reviving ONE DAY AT A TIME, and appealing to audiences around the world of all genders, ages, and races.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. According to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, the online streaming giant will spend $6 billion on content in 2017. Even as AMC is collapsing, Netflix is expanding, acquiring Millarworld, the comic book company which originated franchises such as KICK-ASS and KINGSMAN.

The writer looking to find distribution serves himself and his career best by developing a style that suits the online distribution model. And that means new opportunities for television writers. Writing a long-form story (think of each episode as a chapter in a book rather than a stand-alone story) used to be unthinkable in the US market, but in recent years (since BREAKING BAD, really), that has changed. A more British-style of television has come into vogue, where each season has a beginning, middle, and end. A complete story.

Turning your attention to long-form writing will not only allow you to explore the world you have created and find nuances in your characters lost to the standard 90-page feature, but it also allows you to tackle those ideas and themes you had reserved for your sequel.

John Yorke, former head of drama at both BBC and CH4, EMMY winning producer and author of best selling book “Into The Woods”,  has spent his career creating and analyzing fantastic stories and he will be teaching writers the ins and outs of long-form storytelling on Wednesday, 13 September at Regents University as part of LondonSWF festival week – with the code YORKESPECIAL you can get it for just £32.50 – that’s a whole day with a master storyteller who WALKS THE WALK. More here…


Good luck everyone! And keep on writing!

Bob Schultz