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Netflix is taking over an iconic, shuttered NYC movie theater

Netflix will lease the one-screen cinema, called the Paris, for special events, screenings and theatrical runs of its films.

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The Paris Theatre is an iconic cinema in Manhattan, nestled between a Chanel shop and Bergdorf Goodman department store, within eyeshot of Central Park. 

Netflix/Marion Curtis

Netflix has secured a lease on the Paris Theatre, a historic one-screen cinema in New York City that shuttered earlier this year after more than 70 years specializing in screening foreign and independent films, the video streaming company said Monday.

Netflix's move that it says will "save the beloved institution," could help build its bona fides as a company that appreciates old-school theatrical experiences for film, countering a perception that Netflix is dismissive of theatrical runs. 

Netflix isn't likely to become the next Cinemark or AMC Theatres. If this move is similar to past flirtations with Netflix taking over cinemas, it doesn't presage Netflix making a wider push into becoming a movie theater chain. But screening Netflix's films theatrically has been a key enticement for directors and other talent Netflix wants to recruit. Having an iconic theater like the Paris available for premieres could be appealing in future talent negotiations. 

Terms of the Paris lease weren't disclosed; the company didn't indicate how long the lease is contracted to last, nor whether it will screen movies other than its own there. Located in Manhattan just off Fifth Avenue and within eyeshot of Central Park, the Paris closed earlier this year. But Netflix reopened it last month for a special run of its film Marriage Story

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"After 71 years, the Paris Theatre has an enduring legacy, and remains the destination for a one-of-a kind movie-going experience," Ted Sarandos, Netflix's content chief, said in a release. "We are incredibly proud to preserve this historic New York institution so it can continue to be a cinematic home for film lovers." 

Netflix's attitude about theatrical release -- that movies should be available to stream the same day they open in theaters, or soon thereafter -- has been an affront to cinema traditionalists for years. Since the earliest days of Netflix's original films, the biggest theater chains in the US have prohibited screenings of Netflix's movies. The sticking point is always the "window" that theaters get to exhibit a movie before it's available any other way, usually more than two months. 

Theaters want Netflix to respect that window. Netflix wants to cut it down to a fraction of its traditional length. 

The Cannes Film Festival effectively banned Netflix last year from competing for its most prestigious awards because of this division over theatrical release. Theater chains and high-profile figures like Steven Spielberg 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.

But more recently, Netflix has relaxed its attitude about releasing a film theatrically early. Though it still has never agreed to the kind of extended window that theater chains want, it has released some films in theaters a few weeks before they stream. The Irishman, Netflix's Martin Scorcese film being hailed as the director's masterpiece, is getting a nearly four-week run in cinemas before its made available on the streaming service Wednesday, for example.