Netflix’s announcement that it is planning a global day-and-date release for martial arts action epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend is meeting with strong resistance from cinema chains worldwide.
The streaming giant announced on Monday it had acquired the title from producers The Weinstein Company (TWC) and that it would premiere the picture exclusively on its platform as well as in selected IMAX screens on August 28, 2015.
IMAX chief Greg Foster described the deal as a “terrific opportunity” and added “we are particularly hopeful it will play in our highly successful China market”.
Theatre chains in the US and Europe, however, are refusing to play ball and China may end up being a headache too.
US chains AMC, Regal and Cinemark, which operate more that 50% of the IMAX screens in the United States, have said they will boycott the film in their theatres.
Leading the US charge, AMC put out a statement saying its theatres, as well as those of Beijing-based parent company Wanda Cinema, would not be playing the film.
“AMC Theatres and Wanda Cinema are the largest operators of IMAX-equipped auditoriums in the world. We license just the technology from IMAX. Only AMC and Wanda decide what programming plays in our respective theaters,” AMC said in a statement.
“No one has approached us to license this made-for-video sequel in the US or China, so one must assume the screens IMAX committed are in science centers and aquariums,” it continued.
In Europe, the region’s second biggest operator Cineworld said in a statement: “We bring our customers the IMAX experience as the complete opposite of home entertainment, which can be found on all sorts of smaller, every-day screens like the TV or smartphones and devices. We believe that the theatrical experience and IMAX, as one of its cornerstones, should be kept apart from home entertainment.”
The sequel to Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is being directed by martial arts choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping, whose credits include the fight screens in The Matrix Trilogy and Kill Bill 1 & 2. Chinese star Michelle Yeoh is reprising her role as swords-woman Yu Shu Lien.
Ironically, while the sequel may not get a theatrical release, Lee’s original grossed some $128m in the United States, making it one of the most successful foreign films in the country of all time. It was also popular in Europe.
It failed to ignite audiences in a number of Asian territories including China and Hong Kong, where film experts suggested the picture was not fast-paced enough for local cinema-goers already used to watching martial arts movies.