Netflix already announced release dates for a slew of new shows today, but it's not stopping there: the company has acquired worldwide distribution rights to the newest film from the director of True Detective. Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga, the project tells the story of a young boy that's made to join a group of soldiers in West Africa. Netflix reportedly paid nearly $12 million to snap up the film, which stars Idris Elba (Luther, Pacific Rim). According to Deadline, the film will be streamed worldwide on Netflix, but will also be released theatrically, with an eye towards promoting the film heavily for awards consideration.
It's just the latest movie Reed Hastings' streaming giant has made into a theatrical motion picture over the past several months. Last year the company announced that it would be putting out a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a combination Netflix and IMAX release, but exhibitors quickly protested at the notion of undercutting the traditional theatrical window with a simultaneous release. The furor didn't cause Netflix to miss a step, however. In January, the company signed a deal with Mark and Jay Duplass for four new Netflix films that would also receive theatrical distribution; a month later it picked up a new film starring Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan, and a week after that came word that the company would be producing a new sequel to Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
Netflix is playing the long game to wear down theater chains
Netflix appears to be very aware of the pushback it will face from theater chains and is building out its theatrical strategy accordingly. The films it has stated it will release in theaters thus far are niche, awards-friendly films that will be extremely attractive to small, independent movie theatre chains — the same kind of theaters that haven't been dissuaded by day-and-date releases the way that that larger chains like AMC have been. And while Netflix is jumping in to produce broader, more mainstream fare like the Pee-wee sequel and several upcoming Adam Sandler movies, those films have been primarily earmarked as projects that will skip theaters altogether and go straight online. Should Netflix's original films end up being as consistently good as its series have been, it could put larger theater chains in an unfortunate bind come awards season: decide to play ball with the company's strategy, or miss out on the movie's everybody is talking about.