The new-media giant stunned Hollywood this week when it plunked down $12 million for worldwide rights to the drama about a child soldier in Africa. It boasts a top-shelf cast that includes Idris Elba and arrives courtesy of director Cary Fukunaga, the auteur behind “Sin Nombre” and the buzzy HBO series “True Detective.”
Netflix stresses that the film would debut in “select” theaters — an important caveat given that its distribution platform will mean some exhibitors won’t show the film. Most major theater chains refuse to screen films that do not honor a 90-day delay between their theatrical debut and their home entertainment premiere. Netflix is partnering with Imax and the Weinstein Company on a sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” but most exhibitors are boycotting the film because it does not honor traditional release windows.
The company sounds like it has awards ambitions for the drama, so a theatrical run is essential in order for it to qualify for Oscars.
“‘Beasts of No Nation’ is a powerful film that unfolds beautifully in the hands of director Cary Fukunaga, with Idris Elba delivering a career-defining performance,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer. “We are so proud to bring a film of this caliber exclusively to Netflix members around the world at the same time as it appears in select theaters.”
Oscar voters have shown a willingness to vote for projects that do not adhere to traditional distribution modesl. Netflix has received Oscar nominations over the last two years for two documentaries — “The Square” in 2014 and “Virunga” this year — that were both released day-and-date in theaters and on its site. Likewise, “Margin Call” premiered simultaneously in theaters and on-demand in 2011 and earned a nomination for its screenplay.
Participant Media and Red Crown produced “Beasts of No Nation,” a $6 million drama shot last year in Ghana.
Fukunaga also wrote the “Beasts” script and produced along with Amy Kaufman, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Riva Marker and Dan Crown.
Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King of Participant exec produced along with documentary filmmaker Bill Benenson and Laura Bickford.