Have you heard of Rakuten Cinema?
For most people, the answer will be a resounding no.
Nevertheless, this may change in the next 18 months as this new brand begins challenging Netflix and Amazon in being a competitive VOD service whilst also going one better by securing cinema release dates, at the same time.
Rakuten Cinema is not a new brand, rather it is part of a rebrand and addition to existing businesses. Part of the larger Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, it’s cinema offering is built on the foundations of Rakuten TV (previously wuakiTV) and importantly will invest in original content and co-produce independent films before releasing them in cinemas and through its streaming platform on the same day.
The first film planned by Rakuten Cinema is “Hurricane” starring Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones), Milo Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) and Marcin Dorocinski (Anthropoid, The Reverse). With a release date slated for September 2018, the plot unfolds to tell the true story of a group of Polish fighter pilots who helped defend British shores during the Battle of Britain. In order to bring this film to a wider audience than just it’s existing VOD platform, Rakuten has partnered with Kaleidoscope Entertainment for support in distribution. Only a handful of films are planned for a 2018/19 release by Rakuten Cinema however multi-million pound investment in film production and distribution is planned for 2019 onwards to begin tackling the Netflix and Amazon dominance.
With the announcement of the Rakuten Cinema brand launch and the developments currently taking place in the US on a potential purchase of the Landmark Cinema chain by Netflix, the lines are continuing to blur on what is considered to be a theatrical versus home cinema experience. Debates are raging on the impact of VOD on the cinema experience with the recent decision by Cannes Film Festival to dis-allow Netflix Original films for submission in the festival an example of traditional theatrical establishments trying to fight back.
However as it stands today, it feels a little David and Goliath by traditional cinemas in the battle for the theatrical experience.