Can Romeo & Juliet Save Netflix?

Can Romeo & Juliet Save Netflix?

The Montagues and Capulets will be bickering again on the big screen as Relativity Media's Romeo & Juliet reboot hits movie theaters next weekend.

Once again, William Shakespeare's tale of two -- spoiler alert -- doomed lovers will be updated to modern times.

A niche audience will be tuning in, but Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips has this opening weekend pretty much in the bag. But Romeo & Juliet may very well be a sleeper hit, and Netflix would be tickled to see that happen.

The leading video service struck a multiyear deal with Relativity in 2010, calling for the studio's major theatrically released films to be licensed exclusively to Netflix streaming subscribers during the "pay TV window" that shortly follows a movie's theatrical release. Instead of HBO or Showtime, Romeo & Juliet is going to be available only through Netflix.

Relativity isn't always a hit factory. The studio's next film to hit Netflix's digital catalog is Movie 43. The star-studded montage of short clips in the vein of Kentucky Fried Movie was a box-office dud. Naturally, Netflix knows there is no guarantee a studio can pump out hits when it makes these kinds of deals.

Still, Romeo & Juliet has a shot to be a popular streaming hit -- even if it doesn't resonate with moviegoers next week -- largely because of the rising appeal of its writer.

No, we're not talking about Shakespeare: Julian Fellowes is the one adapting the Bard's classic piece for modern audiences this time. If the name doesn't ring a bell, ask any fan of Downton Abbey. The popular BBC show is Fellowes' handiwork.

Netflix lost the streaming license for Downton Abbey to earlier this year. The show is Amazon's strongest content offering that video buffs can't stream on Netflix (outside the retail giant's own fledgling original programming). As Downton Abbey's appeal grows, so will the draw of Fellowes, and this may come into play a season from now when Romeo & Juliet hits Netflix.

We likely know the fate that awaits Romeo and Juliet next weekend at the box office. Netflix investors will have to hope there is new life to be had from the story come next year.

Netflix's love affair with your living room will have a happier ending
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Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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