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Netflix's dunk on Oscar backlash? It might buy its own movie theater

Netflix is in early talks to buy a historic theater in LA, when it already has traditional Hollywood on edge more than usual.

Actress Yalitza Aparicio poses for flashing cameras on the red carpet in courtyard of the Egyptian theater
Yalitza Aparicio attended Netflix's premiere of Roma at the Egyptian Theatre in December.  
Rachel Murray

Netflix may not win over Steven Spielberg with this one, but we'll see. 

The video streaming company is in preliminary talks to buy the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, a historic cinema that screens classic films and other cinephile fare, a source familiar with the matter said Tuesday. (Deadline first reported the news.) 

Netflix isn't about to become the next Cinemark or AMC -- this doesn't presage Netflix making a wider push into becoming a movie theater chain, the person said. Nor would it change Netflix's existing partnerships with theater chains like iPic and Landmark that already screen Netflix's films theatrically (and also help make its films eligible for Oscars).


The Egyptian Theater is a historic 1922 cinema.

American Cinematheque

But owning this particular theater -- and supporting the nonprofit that programs the events there -- could be a small step toward building its bona fides as a company that appreciates old-school theatrical experiences for film, countering a perception that Netflix actually wants to tear them down. 

After the Cannes Film Festival effectively banned Netflix last year from competing for its most prestigious awards, Netflix had its best year ever at the Oscars in February. It took home four statues total, including high-profile wins for Alfonso Cuaron's black-and-white Roma. But corners of traditional Hollywood bristled at Netflix's approach to the film-award game and how close Netflix got to a hallowed Best Picture statue.

Theater chains and high-profile figures like Spielberg, who is on the Oscars' influential Board of Governors, have spoken out against Netflix's Oscars progress, saying that its films are "made-for-TV movies" or that they are more suitable for Emmy awards instead.

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Netflix's attitude about theatrical release -- that movies should be available to stream the same day they open in theaters, or soon thereafter -- underpins most of these divisions. 

Should the early talks succeed in Netflix buying the Egyptian for tens of millions of dollars, the company would use the cinema as a place for its own screenings and events during the week and allow the nonprofit that leases it, American Cinematheque, to continue to program art-house and classic films during the weekends.

That could represent Netflix using some of its eye-popping budget to buttress a cinematic institution in the heart of Hollywood.