• Shawn Greene / Netflix

    Abraham Attah, left, as Agu, and Idris Elba, as Commandant, in the Netflix original film, "Beasts of No Nation," directed by Cary Fukunaga.

  • Nixon



There’s a bit of trouble hitting the streets of Tinseltown. This time it’s not so much the moving-making side of the business, but the movie-showing part.

Friday saw the release of Netflix’s first streaming feature film, “Beasts of No Nation,” starring newcomer Abraham Attah as a refugee boy caught up by rebel mercenaries and forced to fight as a child soldier in Africa. While the flick has earned some solid reviews — particularly for Attah and co-star Idris Elba’s performances — it’s the distribution that has heads talking.

“Beasts” was also released in a handful of traditional theaters, though most major chains — Regal, AMC, Cinemark and the like — have refused to screen showings. This boycott sounds aggressive, but doesn’t actually carry much weight. “Beasts” is low-budget (around $6 million), has few recognizable leads and is mostly a subtitled foreign-language film — not exactly the type of flick to eat into the weekend box office at most neighborhood theaters.

Still, having a movie forgo the traditional release is something new, and the standing theater chains should have cause for concern. Streaming companies exploring options of creating original films seems like the next logical step in a medium that is known for acclaimed original TV series.

Direct-to-stream releases have enticing little bells around their necks for the average consumer — the most obvious of which is price. The standard Netflix plan runs $10 a month for streaming across two different screens (after a $1 increase earlier this month), which is roughly the price of a single adult ticket to any given blockbuster (provided it’s not a discount or matinee ticket). HBO and Amazon offer similar prices, stretching up to about $15 a month, which is still in the range of two adult movie theater tickets. Convenience also has to be considered; it’s hard to beat watching a film anywhere with Internet access.

So, streaming may have a bit of a numbers edge on theaters at first look, however there’s still something to be said for the draw of the theater itself. Streaming something at home opens me up to distractions; the constant draw of a nearby laptop, a needy cat, or countless other little to-dos that filter into the margins of whatever it is I’m trying to watch. Seeing something on the big screen is a somewhat willing captivity to a story unfolding in front of theater-goers. There’s a definite comfort in the space itself.

As time goes on, though, the romance of seeing a movie in a theater may not be enough of a draw itself to compete with streaming. This year’s summer blockbuster season drew in record sales. And tickets are already on sale — three months in advance, mind you — for the latest “Star Wars,” so theaters aren’t about to vanish in the near future. But, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more films like Netflix’s experiment with “Beasts.”

Read more Nixon: coloradodaily.com/columnists.