Netflix is taking a different route for its new Zack Snyder-directed zombie heist movie, Army of the Dead. Rather than skip theaters and drop the new thriller directly in subscribers’ laps and homes, the company has reached an agreement with theater chains to screen the movie a week early starting May 14th in around 600 theaters, according to Variety.
That’s Netflix’s widest US release yet for one of its feature projects, and it positions the film and the company to capture summer theatergoers’ attention and dollars right as screens are beginning to reopen across the country, and newly vaccinated film fans feel comfortable enough to watch how they used to. Variety says Netflix has partnered with Cinemark, Alamo Drafthouse, iPic, Landmark, Harkins, and Cinépolis theaters to make the release happen. Cinemark will reportedly screen Army of the Dead in 200 of its theaters.
In comparison to a traditional blockbuster release that can reach thousands of theaters, 600 might seem minor, but this is Netflix, a company that’s usually scorned the traditional theatrical release model. Theaters typically want a 90-day window for theatrical releases so that people have a reason to go see a movie in person. This is why Warner Bros.’ same-day streaming and theater release strategy on HBO Max films stirred up so much controversy. Theaters need a reason for people to show up, especially during the pandemic when they’re at their most vulnerable. Streaming services might not feel so generous.
Past major Netflix releases have only chosen to screen in theaters to qualify for awards like the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, and have sometimes struggled to find cinemas that wanted to play ball. Roma, which won Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards, was only shown in around 250 theaters, according to The New York Times. Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman received a limited release in eight theaters initially and hit around 550 theaters at its widest.
There’s only Army of the Dead’s trailer to go off of, but shooting for something closer to a big blockbuster summer release seems to make sense for a zombie movie. It could be fun!