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Netflix acquires exclusive rights to Egypt documentary, stoking Oscar buzz

Netflix acquires exclusive rights to Egypt documentary, stoking Oscar buzz

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Netflix may be looking for an Oscar. According to the Associated Press, the streaming service announced today that it's acquired the award-winning documentary The Square, which took home audience awards at both Sundance and TIFF this year. The picture will debut exclusively on Netflix in early 2014 everywhere that its service is available, though the film is also undergoing a small theatrical run in Los Angeles right now to qualify it for the Oscars. It's not Netflix's first foray into purchasing features, but with The Square's existing acclaim and serious subject matter — the Egyptian protests in Tahrir Square — it suggests that Netflix is intent on moving beyond movies that'll fly under the radar and into films that'll bring it attention during awards season.

Theater owners aren't happy with Netflix

The announcement comes after remarks by Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, saying that Netflix could begin releasing movies in theaters and on-demand on the very same day. His remarks, naturally, weren't taken well by theater owners, who he also said were stifling innovation. "Why not premiere movies on Netflix the same day they’re opening in theaters?" Sarandos said during a speech in late October, reports Variety. "And not little movies. There’s a lot of people and a lot of ways to do that. But why not big movies?"

Seeing Netflix take over a buzzed-about documentary like The Square won't help ease theater owners' concerns, but Sarandos has walked back some of his statements, saying that he merely wants to see the window between theatrical releases and on-demand releases shortened. Nonetheless, Sarandos suggested that Netflix could put its own movies in theaters one day, though it appears that won't be happening just yet. For now however, Netflix will still be the exclusive home to what it likely hopes is an Oscar-nominee, and that'll certainly bring the streaming service plenty of attention next year.