Netflix sipping ‘Sherry’

Netco pushes distrib envelope

Netflix is dropping another movie in an envelope and shipping it … to theaters.

Netco has made one of its biggest distribution deals to date, picking up rights to Maggie Gyllenhaal starrer “Sherrybaby.” Company will handle homevid distribution and will also serve as the distributor of record on theatrical, though it has tapped IFC to help manage the channel.

Distrib deal is the first announced since former Miramax and Intermedia exec Bahman Naragi, whom the Silicon Valley firm hired in April to spearhead new distribution efforts, came aboard.

Move reflects the company’s commitment to picking up distribution for different type of pic.

When he was hired, Naragi said that Netflix would like to be “more ambitious in the titles we would be acquiring.” In an interview Tuesay he said that “Sherrybaby” was a good example of the kind of bigger-budget, more celeb-driven projects Netflix was interested in.

Still, company generally sees theatrical as “a promotional platform that will put the film on critics’ maps and create awareness,” rather than as an actual revenue generator.

“Sherrybaby,” the story of a recently released convict, appeared at Sundance this year. Pic was written and directed by Laurie Collyer and financed by Big Beach Films’ Marc Turtletaub.

Acquisition is part of Netflix’s larger strategy to earn coin from several channels.

Netflix has a track record of turning indie films into mainstream hits; it’s credited, for example, with generating nearly three-quarters of the homevid revenue for docu “Capturing the Friedmans.” But because it didn’t handle distribution on the film, it saw only traditional retail profits.

A larger financial position, execs feel, would sweeten the rewards for movies Netflix is already working hard to promote.

Gamble on distribution thus reps a smart one for the Netco: Netflix takes a flier on dozens of movies that don’t cost much in the hope that one becomes a blockbuster.

Last year the company distributed nearly 100 indie movies. Recent deals have included joint distribution with Emerging Pictures for “Cowboy del amor” and a co-financing arrangement for the upcoming Kirby Dick MPAA docu “This Film Is Not Yet Rated.” Naragi said he expected the overall number of titles to dwindle slightly as company got involved with bigger-budget pics.

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