Netflix’s biggest daredevil move: Making comic book films for theaters

The streaming service faces a tricky customer issue if it pushes further into theatrical releases and does not offer those films as part of a streaming subscription at the same time.

“They shouldn’t make their content available in theaters unless it is also available simultaneously on Netflix, or that could damage the brand with those aforementioned customers that are using Netflix for original content,” said Carol Roth, founder of Future File, a system that provides assistance for legacy planning, and former investment banker.

This past Tuesday, Netflix reported earnings that blew out Wall Street expectations for subscriber additions and is on pace to add as many subscribers in one year as AT&T’s recent acquisition HBO amassed over four decades, but it is burning cash at a record pace.

Marvel’s corporate leadership hasn’t ruled out the idea of further collaboration.

“So much of what we’re doing is set, but I just — I never say never, but I’m not sure when that would be,” Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige told Screen Rant during the “Avengers: Infinity War” press junket, addressing the possibility of a future crossover with Netflix characters.

“This is a tricky situation and is filled with unknowns. I think everyone in Hollywood will be watching to see how the model evolves and plays out,” said Karie Bible, a box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. She said the acquisition by Netflix of the New Mexico production site is more of a financial move in the near term to take advantage of tax credits, but in the end may become part of a movie-making effort. “I think they’re going to cross over to theaters. It’s kind of a wait-and-see game.”

Jahns said some television legacies are better left that way, even given the appeal — and potential box-office take — of a big-budget comic book movie.

“‘Iron Man’ and the Marvel Cinematic Universe changed the game. Now there is an expectation for comic book movies to take a big-screen adaptation seriously,” he said. “I think a Defender character having their own movie could be a fun test run, but the legacy of the story should stay as a series. After all, I thought the first ‘X-Files’ movie was enjoyable enough, but when I think of the legacy of ‘The X-Files’ and the joy I felt watching it, I think of the show, not the movies.”

By Donovan Russo, special to CNBC.com

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