American Netflix subscribers often get the short end of the stick when it comes to watching new movies on Netflix – and sometimes we miss out altogether. Many blockbuster titles from 2016 and 2015 either debuted in other places first or are only available to Netflix subscribers in other countries.

Continue on to learn:

  • Which Netflix countries have the most popular Netflix films of 2015 and 2016
  • Which blockbuster films are only available in countries outside the US
  • How large and small movie makers produce and distribute films
  • Why Netflix subscribers often have to wait years to see new films (or in some cases, don’t get to see them at all)

The Great North American Netflix Showdown of 2016

The American Netflix catalog has 7 of the top 10 movies of 2016. Of those 7 movies, 2 of them (Finding Dory and Captain America: Civil War) were released in Canada on Netflix before they appeared in the United States Netflix catalog.

Deadpool, Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad seem to be stuck in licensing hell. All three are available in other Netflix countries, but not in the United States.

Interestingly, British Netflix subscribers can’t watch any of the top 10 movies of 2016 on Netflix.

Source: Flixed.io

The Top Films of 2016: Are They On Netflix?

Here’s a title-by-title breakdown of which Netflix territories can access the top 10 highest grossing films of 2016.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • The first Netflix country to get this movie: a tie between the US and Canada
1
Source: UNOGS

Finding Dory

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: the US
2

Captain America: Civil War

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: Canada
3
Source: UNOGS

Secret Life of Pets

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: United States
4
Source: UNOGS

The Jungle Book (2016)

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: Canada
5
Source: UNOGS

Deadpool

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: Canada
6
Source: UNOGS

Zootopia

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: a tie between the US and Canada
7
Source: UNOGS

Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: Australia
8
Source: UNOGS

Suicide Squad

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: Sweden
9
Source: UNOGS

Sing

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: the US
10
Source: UNOGS

The Brits Are Dominating 2015 Movie Releases on Netflix

The UK version of Netflix has more top movies that came out in 2015 than the United States and Canada combined. Brits can watch Avengers: Age of Ultron, Furious 7, Minions, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Cinderella and Spectre.

American Netflix subscribers can only watch one of 2015’s top 10 films: Minions. Canadians can’t access Minions, but at least they can watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.

Netflix subscribers from Australia and the Netherlands can’t watch any of the top 10 movies of 2015 – and nobody in any Netflix territory can watch The Martian.

Source: Flixed.io

The Top Films of 2015: Are They On Netflix?

Here’s a title-by-title analysis of which Netflix territories can access 2015’s top 10 highest grossing movies.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: Canada
star wars stats
Source: UNOGS

Avengers: Age of Ultron

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: the UK
avengers stats
Source: UNOGS

Inside Out

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: Germany
inside out stats
Source: UNOGS

Furious 7

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: Brazil
furious 7 stats
Source: UNOGS

Minions

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: the US
minions stats
Source: UNOGS

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: Canada
mockingjay stats
Source: UNOGS

The Martian

  • The Martian still isn’t available on any Netflix catalog.

Cinderella (2015)

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: the UK
cinderella stats
Source: UNOGS

Spectre

  • First Netflix country to get this movie: the UK
spectre stas
Source: UNOGS

Which Netflix Catalog Will Reign Supreme in 2017?

Only one of the top 10 movies of 2017 is available on Netflix. Beauty and the Beast is currently the highest grossing film of this year so far. It entered the Netflix catalog in the US and Canada on the same day: the 19th of September.

2017 isn’t over yet, so it’s too early to tell which Netflix country will luck out the most in 2017 in terms of movie availability. If the trend from 2016 continues, Netflix subscribers in Australia, the US and Canada will likely be the first to be able to stream this year’s movies.

On the other hand, Netflix’s 2015 release schedule was totally different compared to 2016’s. Movie availability on Netflix is always changing because Netflix is constantly negotiating behind-the-scenes deals with movie producers and distributors.

The Logic Behind Netflix’s Movie Release Schedule

According to Netflix, there are three main factors that determine movie availability: regional tastes, rights conflicts and rights availability issues.

Regional tastes

Netflix won’t pay for the right to add a movie title to one of its regional catalogs if they decide that it doesn’t add significant value.

“Some TV shows and movies that are popular with our members in the United States may not be desirable to members in the United Kingdom, even though they’re both English-speaking regions.” – Netflix Help Center

Rights conflicts

“More than one studio or distributor may own regional rights for a TV show or movie. For example, we may sign an agreement with a distributor to show a US-made movie in Latin America before we’ve signed an agreement with the studio that made that movie to show it in the US.” – Netflix Help Center

In other words, Netflix has to work out separate agreements with a movie’s creators (the studio) as well as the people that market the movie to the public (distributors) before Netflix can add it to one of their regional catalogs. It can take time for all participating parties to reach an agreement.

To get an idea of just how complicated the process of buying the rights to a movie can be, check out this video from Howcast:

Rights availability issues

“Sometimes a TV show or movie simply isn’t available in a particular region. We can’t buy a TV show or movie license for a specific region if no one is selling it.” – Netflix Help Center

This above statement from Netflix seems odd. If you owned the rights to a movie, why wouldn’t you try to sell it to Netflix and make a few extra dollars?

As it turns out, making your movie available via Netflix isn’t always a wise thing to do – especially if you’re a small, independent filmmaker.

Why Some Indie Filmmakers Opt Out of Netflix

Indiewire’s senior film critic David Ehrlich doesn’t think of Netflix as a real movie distributor. Instead, he sees it as a “graveyard of unlimited viewing hours.”

Because Netflix is notoriously unwilling to share data about who is watching what on their system, there’s no way for movie makers to know whether or not people like their film.

Without viewership data to prove that their Netflix film was a success, new filmmakers often find it hard to secure funds to make a new one after working with Netflix.

Navigating the Mass Market Movie Maze

Unlike small, independent studios, Hollywood movie makers have plenty of data that they can use to determine whether or not their latest film was profitable.

In the initial days of a big blockbuster movie release, producers watch the initial ticket sales to see how the movie performs in the theater. If a studio is able to quickly make back the money they spent producing a film, it’s considered a financial success.

Because it’s relative easy to determine whether a mass market movie made or lost money, you would think that it wouldn’t be so hard for Netflix to cut a deal with the big studios – but this isn’t the case at all.

“Everything in Hollywood is governed by a byzantine set of contractual relationships between many different kinds of companies—studios, distributors, cable channels, telecom companies, and others.” – Slate technology columnist Farhad Manjoo

Netflix must strike a deal with two main groups of industry insiders before it can add a movie to its catalog: movie studios and movie distributors.

Movie studios

The majority of the movies made in the United States are produced by one the “big six” movie studios: 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures.

Movie distributors

Movie distributors help the movie studios market movies and sell them to the public. There are many types of movie distributors: theatrical distributors, international distributors and even home video distributors.

To make things even more confusing for everyone involved, the process of buying the rights to a movie changes as a movie ages. Separate deals must be worked out with various parties for each stage of a movie’s life cycle.

The standard blockbuster movie lifecycle

First, a movie hits the theaters. Then 3 to 6 months later, it comes out on DVD and pay-per-view. Then, the movie makes its way to premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime and others. Next, the movie goes to ad-supported cable networks like Starz and TNT.

After a movie has worked its way through all of the abovementioned distribution channels, it enters what Starz network spokesman Eric Becker describes as a “library phase.” Once all the other distributors have milked a movie for all its worth, comparatively low-budget streaming companies can finally compete to buy its rights.

Timelines may vary

Different films move through the system at different speeds. It all depends on the negotiation that happens along each step of the distribution process. For example, if HBO thinks a particular movie will remain hot for years to come it may try to fork over some extra money to lock down a multi-year exclusive deal.

On the other hand, “direct to DVD” movies skip the theater step of the movie life cycle altogether. Many direct-to-DVD movies are fight flicks that feature unknown actors. Other direct-to-DVD movies (Steven Segal’s 2005 movie Submerged and Rodney Dangerfield’s 2004 comedy Back by Midnight, for example) feature once-famous actors at the end of their careers.

Breaking the mold

The main reason why streaming companies usually have to wait to buy the rights to movies is that they usually don’t have the cash necessary to compete. However, the old model is changing.

Now that more and more people are subscribing to streaming platforms, they now have the budgets needed to compete with established distribution pipelines.

Netflix is one of the largest streaming platforms out there – that’s why it has the resources to strike deals that allow it to hop ahead of other distributors in the movie distribution pipeline.

In 2008 Netflix signed a deal with Starz. This agreement was groundbreaking because it allowed Netflix to grab the rights to stream movies that were new at the time like No Country for Old Men, Ratatouille and others. However, in 2011 Netflix terminated their Starz deal – and as a result, a number of movies had to be pulled from its catalog.

In 2012, Netflix struck a similar deal with Disney – but Disney will exit the contract in 2019 when it debuts its own streaming service. In 2013, Netflix gained permission from TBS to stream content from Cartoon Network, Warner Bros. Animation and Adult Swim.

Where Is Netflix Headed?

Will Netflix keep trying to secure the rights to blockbuster films – or will it give up and focus on original content instead? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.