The Cinematic Future Draws Closer. Again.

This most recent press release from Relativity Media, as noted by /film’s Peter Sciretta, is a bit of a bombshell:

Netflix, Inc. and Relativity Media, LLC today announced a long term agreement through which major theatrically released films owned by Relativity will be licensed directly and exclusively to Netflix for streaming to its subscribers during the “pay TV window.” Traditionally, these films have flowed through Relativity’s studio releasing partners to output deals with premium TV channels.

Among the first wave of films covered under the Netflix-Relativity deal are “The Fighter,” starring Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams and distributed by Paramount Pictures, and “Skyline,” co-directed by the Brothers Strause and released by Rogue Pictures and Universal Studios. Both films are scheduled for theatrical release later this year and to be available at Netflix in early 2011.

As Sciretta notes, it’s hard to know exactly what this means for studios in the short-term. It would seem to affect cable providers more immediately, if it actually affects anyone. But such an agreement does raise the spectre of “the possibility of having Hollywood movies distributed on Netflix streaming day and date with a theatrical release,” and that would be a major story.

As Blockbuster’s continuing travails make abundantly clear, the movie distribution industry is going through a tumultuous period of transition, moving away from a “traditional” rental model towards more “mobile” services. And once again, Netflix seems to be staying a step ahead. (I’m all for that, just as long as they keep adding content for us snobby types. The recent addition to the Watch Now library of my favorite Kurosawa film ever has endeared them to me as never before. Now, if they could just stay away from such monstrosities as The Asylum’s Sherlock Holmes, everything would be even better.)

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Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. Currently residing in Lander, Wyoming -- "where Stetsons meet Birkenstocks" -- he is a columnist for Crisis Magazine and the Patheos Catholic portal.

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