Netflix recently released Beasts of No Nation both in movie theaters and online, and it's building upon that strategy with two new films — one of which features Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the company has picked up Girlfriend's Day, a "noir comedy" in which Odenkirk plays a greeting card writer who's accused of murder and sets out to prove himself innocent. Odenkirk co-wrote the film, which will be directed by Michael Stephenson and is also set to feature Amber Tamblyn. Netflix has also purchased the recently completed thriller Mercy, which focuses on a set of brothers that reconvene at their family home to see their dying mother, only to find themselves in a home invasion scenario. (Mercy is written and directed by Chris Sparling, who first garnered attention for his script Buried, which featured Ryan Reynolds as a man trapped inside a coffin as part of a ransom shakedown.)
Both films will be released in 2016, when they'll debut simultaneously on Netflix as well as in movie theaters. The dual approach has been part of a constant, steady push on the part of Netflix, despite reluctance from many exhibitors, to play along. Last year Netflix announced that its first original film would be a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that would be released on IMAX screens and online, but theater chains quickly balked at the idea, worried that day-and-date releases would undercut the viability of the movie theater business. The back and forth over compressed theatrical release windows has been going on for years at this point, with Universal itself planning an early video-on-demand release for the movie Tower Heist back in 2011, before exhibitor pushback scuttled those plans.
Netflix is playing a disciplined long game
With many of its movie efforts like its upcoming Adam Sandler films, Netflix hasn't bothered with theaters, planning the films for online release only. With Beasts of No Nation, however, Netflix forged ahead by avoiding big chains like AMC and Regal, and instead opened the movie in smaller theaters that have been more amenable to these kind of release strategies. (With its new Spike Lee film Chi-Raq, Amazon is side-stepping the conflict by simply opening exclusively in theaters first.) Netflix appears to be playing a disciplined long game, slowly normalizing the practice of movies showing up on Netflix the same time they show up in movie theaters. No doubt the company hopes that once it builds up enough clout, it can convince larger theater chains to join in simply because they won't want to miss out on Netflix movies. When that moment arrives, it will signal a significant — and likely permanent — shift in the way movie theaters do business.