Major theater chains are refusing to show “Beasts of No Nation,” the Cary Fukunaga drama that Netflix bought this week for $12 million, because the company is debuting the film simultaneously on its streaming service.
The country’s four largest exhibitors — AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike — separately told Variety that they do not plan to show the drama about child soldiers in Africa because they do not want to provide screens to films that do not honor what is typically a 90-day delay between a theatrical debut and a home entertainment release.
In a release touting the deal, Netflix said the picture will have a qualifying run for Oscar consideration in “select theaters” later this year — language that seemed to acknowledge that “Beasts of No Nation” will have trouble securing a berth in many theaters. After all, there’s a precedent. When Netflix announced last fall that it will partner with the Weinstein Company and Imax on a sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” most exhibitors refused to show the film.
Not everyone has a problem with the concept of simultaneous home entertainment and theatrical releases. The Alamo Drafthouse, an independent chain with 19 theaters in such states as Texas, New York and California, said it will screen the picture.
“I’m agnostic about this sort of thing,” said Tim League, the company’s CEO and founder. “I look at films I want to play and I play them regardless of the release strategy.”
League noted that Alamo Drafthouse had success showing “Snowpiercer,” even though that science-fiction adventure debuted last summer on-demand while it was still in theaters.
“I don’t look at myself as a competitor to Netflix,” said League. “I think that argument is a little bit of a red herring. I watch a lot of movies at home, but there comes a time where I want to get out of the house. I look at cinemas as one of those options that compete with restaurants or baseball games or all of those things I can’t do in my living room.”
Insiders say “Beasts of No Nation” could get exhibited at roughly 200 to 250 arthouse and independent theaters. Fukunaga’s success on “True Detective” made him a favorite with artistic-minded viewers and star Idris Elba has a following.
The film could have had a more traditional release plan. Netflix beat out specialty distributors such as Focus and Fox Searchlight for rights to the picture because its backers felt that the company offered a larger audience for the film.
“This movie will have the muscle of Netflix behind it,” said Amy Kaufman, a producer on the film. “It will definitely be seen by a lot more and different kinds of people through Netflix than it would have through a traditional platform.”
Kaufman argues that the quality of Netflix shows and documentaries such as “House of Cards” and “Virunga,” as well as television programming like HBO’s “True Detective,” is altering people’s perceptions of where and how they consume content.
“It could be a game changer,” she said. “This has the potential to change the way people perceive how movies and art are delivered to them.”