Netflix Streaming and Theatrical Releases: Who Will Get to Stream “The Force Awakens”?

Far and away the most anticipated theatrical release of 2015 is “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The seventh installment of George Lucas’ sci-fi juggernaut is scheduled to hit theaters on December 18, though many fans have already purchased tickets this week to get coveted opening night seats.

But what about those fans who would rather avoid the crowds and watch the latest tale from a galaxy far, far away from the comfort of their own couch?

Netflix’s Deals With Disney

If you live in Canada and are looking to stream “The Force Awakens,” you’re in luck: Canada is the only country with a streaming deal in place to show the film at a later date in 2016.

U.S. residents are, unfortunately, out of luck.

Premium pay channel Starz has exclusive rights to stream Disney properties through the end of 2015. (Remember: George Lucas sold the Star Wars universe to Disney back in 2012.) That Disney-Starz streaming deal includes all theatrical releases through the end of 2015. Because “The Force Awakens” has a December release date, it’s not eligible for Netflix’s Disney streaming, which commences with 2016 releases. Fans hoping to see the next Star Wars chapter on Netflix are out of luck by just a few weeks. Netflix managed to snag all Disney’s 2015 theatrical releases for lucky Canadians, though.

Simultaneous Releases

Netflix isn’t letting the Disney delay get them down. The entertainment company has expanded its programming in recent years to challenge premium TV channels at their own game with their own productions of hits like “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” With viewers firmly on board for quality television shows, the company is now trying their luck at making their own movies.

Netflix released its first major studio film on October 16. “Beasts of No Nation” stars Idris Elba in a nightmarish look at child soldiers in Africa. The film has been well reviewed and may even be an Oscar contender. While high quality and production values are not unusual for Netflix, what is new is the company’s plan to stream the film on the same date as its theatrical release. The simultaneous release is a fairly new concept, and many major theater chains are not happy about it. Without the traditional 90-day period of theatrical monopoly, cinema profits stand to suffer.

It remains to be seen whether this model will disrupt cinema the way the advent of Netflix led to the shuttering of video rental shops, but there could be a compromise solution. Amazon is also planning to get in the movie production business, but will only stream their films a few weeks after the theatrical release. It’s no 90-day window, but it does offer the big theaters a chance to bring in some profit.

Netflix and Other Star Wars Properties

If you’re a super-fan not easily consoled by the news of Netflix’s own burgeoning movie studio output, don’t worry. While discussing Netflix’s latest earning report, Ted Sarandos also let slip that the company is in talks to try to secure the rights to stream the previous six Star Wars films in the near future. Six out of seven looks to be the best American Star Wars fans can hope for at the moment.

By Anum Yoon
Anum Yoon is a personal finance writer based in Philadelphia. You can read more about her money management strategies on her blog, Current on Currency.

Copyrighted 2016. Content published with author's permission.

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