SVOD Service MUBI Signs First Theatrical Deal with ‘Arabian Nights’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Miguel Gomes’ 'Arabian Nights' played in Directors' Fortnight at Cannes

LONDON — Subscription video-on-demand platform MUBI has signed its first theatrical deal. In a pioneering partnership with New Wave Films, MUBI will release Miguel Gomes’ “Arabian Nights” in theaters across the U.K. and Ireland. MUBI will then show the film online.

MUBI and New Wave will handle jointly the home entertainment and VOD release for the three-part film, which played in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes this year.

The move is the latest in a small but growing recent trend of SVOD services acquiring the rights to films with an eye to releasing them in theaters as well as online. Netflix will release Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation” on Oct. 16 in select U.S. theaters and online. It will release “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend” theatrically in China, and on IMAX and on Netflix globally early next year, and will also release Brad Pitt’s “War Machine” in select theaters and online next year.

Last week, Amazon said that Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” would be the first film to run as part of its Amazon Original Movies initiative, through which the company will produce and acquire movies for theatrical release and early window distribution exclusively for its Prime SVOD service.

Gomes, who directed Berlin Film Festival competition title “Tabu,” was disturbed by the austerity measures imposed on his home country, Portugal, so he commissioned a group of journalists to gather true stories from across the country, which were then fictionalized to create “Arabian Nights.”

“The outcome is a heady blend of the surreal and the all too real, told in a series of episodes where social realism is mixed in with the downright bizarre,” MUBI said in a statement. “It is a snapshot of his country in economic strife and a collection of riveting stories that will resonate far beyond Portugal’s borders.”

Efe Cakarel, founder and CEO of MUBI, said: “This is the perfect film to make our foray into releasing a film across all platforms. Not only are we able to partner with such an inspiring company such as New Wave Films, but also, we are able to bring one of this year’s most incredibly unique films to cinemas and then our audiences.”

MUBI, which was founded by London-based Turkish entrepreneur Cakarel in 2007, differs from other SVOD services in two respects. First, it specializes in independent, cult, classic and festival films, with an emphasis on foreign-language titles. Second, it is curated by the service’s staff: At any one time there are only 30 films to choose from, with the titles constantly rotating. Every day a new film is introduced, and one drops off. Each film is available to watch for 30 days. The service is available in more than 200 countries and across multiple devices.

Earlier this month, MUBI signed a multiyear distribution deal in the U.K. with Sony Pictures Television, which marked the first major studio deal for the arthouse movie platform. The deal forms part of a ramping up of U.S. content on the site.

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