In a move to bolster its awards season status, Netflix has bought worldwide rights to Cary Fukunaga’s African war drama “Beasts of No Nation,” starring Idris Elba, for its global streaming service and theatrical release.
Netflix paid nearly $12 million for the rights.
According to insiders, the media distributor is planning a strong Oscar push for the feature, which is based on the bestselling novel by Uzodinma Iweala. The story follows the journey of a boy who is forced to join a group of soldiers in an unnamed West African country.
Netflix did not disclose the timing of the release but an awards season campaign would require that the theatrical release not be preceded by the streaming release.
The rules of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences state: “Films that in any version, receive their first public exhibition or distribution in any manner other than as a theatrical motion picture release will not be eligible for Academy Awards in any category.Nontheatrical public exhibition or distribution includes but is not limited to Broadcast and cable television; PPV/VOD; DVD distribution; Internet transmission. Motion pictures released in such nontheatrical media on or after the first day of their Los Angeles County qualifying run remain eligible.”
Netflix used a day-and-date release for two of its documentaries from the last two years — “The Square” and “Virunga” — and both were nominated for Oscars for Best Documentary Feature.
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Participant Media and Red Crown produced “Beasts of No Nation,” a $6 million drama shot last year in Ghana.
Fukunaga is the award-winning director of “True Detective” and “Sin Nombre.” He 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.
Elba, the star of BBC’s hit series “Luther,” recently starred in the African-set drama “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” which grossed only $8 million domestically.
Netflix made a similar announcement two weeks ago about acquiring the worldwide rights to upcoming war thriller “Jadotville,” starring “Fifty Shades of Grey” actor Jamie Dornan, across all its territories in 2016. The film is slated to go into production in April, shooting in Ireland and South Africa.
Netflix acquired all rights to “Jadotville” for an estimated $17 million and will debut the film on its Internet subscription VOD services. In addition, the company may also release the film theatrically for a qualifying run.
Netflix’s other movie projects include a deal with Adam Sandler for four films and an agreement with Weinstein Co. and Imax to debut the sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” simultaneously in theaters and on Netflix in August. Netflix also reached a deal in January with Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass to produce four movies, which will have a brief theatrical release before becoming available exclusively on Netflix.
The deal for “Beasts of No Nation” was brokered by WME Global with Loeb and Loeb.
Fukunaga is repped by WME and Anonymous Content.
The news about “Beasts of No Nation” as first reported by Deadline.