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Army of the Dead to play at Cinemark theaters nationwide, in major shift for Netflix films

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In the latest sign of swiftly turning tides in the movie business, Cinemark Theatres announced Tuesday that Netflix and Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead will play in more than 200 of its locations starting May 14, one week before the film begins streaming.

Smaller independent and regional theater chains, including Landmark Theatres and Alamo Drafthouse, will screen Army of the Dead as well. All told, the film will open on about 600 screens nationwide, the largest theatrical release yet for a Netflix film.

"Cinemark is excited to work with Netflix on our first wide release and provide movie lovers the opportunity to see Army of the Dead in our theatres across the U.S.," Justin McDaniel, Cinemark's senior vice president of global content strategy, said in a statement. "Zack Snyder fans will love seeing the action in an immersive, cinematic environment with larger-than-life sight and sound technology."

CLAY ENOS/NETFLIX

For Cinemark, the third-largest theater chain in the country, to screen the film is an enormous coup for Netflix and the beginning of a new chapter in movie theaters' relationship with the streamer. Historically, the largest theater chains have declined to play Netflix films, due to the longstanding theatrical window requiring movies to play exclusively on the big screen for 90 days. Netflix has consistently refused to abide by this agreement, even for such major films as Martin Scorsese's $150 million-plus The Irishman.

But the COVID-19 pandemic upended that window. As movie theaters shuttered for months before emerging to a barren release schedule, studios began to test other avenues for releasing their films to viewers. By July, Universal had struck a historic agreement with AMC — the world's largest theater chain — to allow its movies to play on VOD after just 17 days in theaters. Then came Warner Bros.' announcement that its entire 2021 film slate would play on HBO Max and in theaters simultaneously, a jaw-dropping move that proved beyond all doubt the pandemic had accelerated the changing nature of the industry.

Now, Cinemark's deal with Netflix offers further proof. In a press release, the theater chain indicated that Army of the Dead will mark the beginning of a new phase in its relationship with Netflix. The theater chain had previously shown The Christmas Chronicles 2, The Midnight Sky, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom for very limited runs, apparently to test the waters for future collaborations with the streamer.

Army of the Dead stars Dave Bautista as the leader of a group of mercenaries who attempt a heist at a zombie-infested Las Vegas casino. The cast also features Matthias Schweighöfer, Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera, Garret Dillahunt, Raúl Castillo, Omari Hardwick, and Tig Notaro. The film will hit Netflix on May 21.

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