Netflix has reached a deal with The Weinstein Co. for its first original movie — a sequel to Ang Lee’s 2000 martial arts pic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” — set to hit IMAX theaters and the streaming-video service simultaneously next summer.
The film, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend,” is slated for a Aug. 28, 2015, debut. Produced by Weinstein Co., the movie is the first of several major films to premiere day-and-date both on the SVOD service (at no extra charge) and in select IMAX theaters worldwide. Financial terms of the pact were not disclosed.
Netflix has been eyeing day-and-date releases of movies, as chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a keynote last year at the Film Independent Forum in Los Angeles. The launch of the movie is likely to catch the ire of exhibitors — who have in the past viewed digital encroachment on theatrical windows as a threat.
Meanwhile, Netflix already has an output deal with Weinstein Co. that makes the Internet-streaming provider the exclusive U.S. subscription television service for first-run films from TWC, beginning in 2016, and has other deals with the studio including for original series “Marco Polo.”
“Fans will have unprecedented choice in how they enjoy an amazing and memorable film that combines intense action and incredible beauty,” Sarandos said in a statement. “We are honored to be working with Harvey Weinstein and a world-class team of creators to bring this epic story to people all over the world and to partner with IMAX, a brand that represents the highest quality of immersive entertainment, in the distribution of this film.”
Added Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of TWC, “The moviegoing experience is evolving quickly and profoundly, and Netflix is unquestionably at the forefront of that movement. We are tremendously excited to be continuing our great relationship with Netflix and bringing to fans all over the world the latest chapter in this amazing and intriguing story.”
IMAX, for its part, has high hopes for the release in China — where Netflix does not presently offer service. In territories where Netflix and IMAX simultaneously release the film, “we are excited to offer consumers the option of deciding how, when and where they want to view the film, and exhibitors the opportunity to participate in this alternative form of content in a new and innovative way,” said Greg Foster, CEO of IMAX Entertainment.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend” will star Michelle Yeoh (pictured, above) reprising her role from the first movie as Yu Shu-Lien, along with Donnie Yen (first two “Ip Man” movies, “Monkey King 3D”) as Silent Wolf. The original 2000 film generated $213 million worldwide at the box office, including $128 million in the U.S.; among its awards haul were four Oscars, including best foreign language film.
The sequel is directed by martial-arts choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping, who previously helmed “Tai Chi Master” and choreographed fight scenes in “The Matrix” trilogy and the first two “Kill Bill” movies from Quentin Tarantino.
Principal photography is now underway in New Zealand. The new movie is based on “Iron Knight, Silver Vase” by Wang Dulu and scripted by John Fusco (“Marco Polo”), the original series about the famed explorer being produced by Weinstein Co. for Netflix.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend” is produced by Harvey Weinstein and Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey (both of “Friday Night Lights,” “Lone Survivor” and “Hancock”). Executive producers are Morten Tyldum, Ralph Winter, Anthony Wong and Bey Logan.
The film’s director of photography is Tom Sigel (“Drive,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) with the design team led by “Lord of the Rings” collaborators costume designer Ngila Dickson, production designer Grant Major and visual effects supervisor Mark Stetson.
The cast of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend” also includes Harry Shum Jr. (“Glee,” “Revenge of the Green Dragons”), Jason Scott Lee (“Seventh Son,” “Hawaii Five-O”), Roger Yuan (“Bulletproof Monk”), Eugenia Yuan (“Revenge of the Green Dragons”) and newcomer Natasha Liu Bordizzo.
Weinstein Co. has rattled movie-release windows before. Most recently, the studio cut a deal with Yahoo, which will stream biopic “One Chance” for free starting Sept. 30 — 10 days before the movie hits theaters Oct. 10.
Theater owners have fought attempts by studios to move homevideo and VOD releases closer to or concurrent with theatrical bow, fearing that the move will hurt ticket sales. In 2011, Universal scrapped plans to offer “Tower Heist” on cable VOD — for $60 a pop, three weeks after hitting theaters — after several exhibitors responded by saying they would refuse to show the caper pic.