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Cannes: Netflix Acquires Kevin James’ ‘True Memoirs of an International Assassin’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Netflix has made its first big splash at the Cannes Film Festival by acquiring worldwide distribution rights to the upcoming Kevin James comedy “The True Memoirs of an International Assassin,” Variety has learned.

The purchase, which is in final negotiations, is a formidable coup for Netflix as it continues to build on its reputation in the realm of distributing original films.

Under the deal, “Assassin” will be presented as a Netflix event in 2016, meaning it will debut exclusively on the streaming service and not in theaters. The budget for the production will be considerable, according to a source, and on par with other James movies made by major studios like Sony Pictures. The figures for the deal were not disclosed.

In the comedy, James plays an accountant mistaken for an assassin when a novel he’s writing is accidentally published as nonfiction, forcing him to flee to Belize. “Assassin” will be directed by Jeff Wadlow (“Kick Ass 2”) based on a Black List screenplay by Jeff Morris. Producers include Kevin Frakes, Todd Garner, Raja Collins and Justin Begnaud. Shooting begins in September.

Netflix has made clear that it wants to be considered a major player in distributing new movies. Last Friday, chief content officer Ted Sarandos delivered a talk in Cannes outlining his vision for acquiring and producing original films. Sarandos noted that signing a four-movie deal with Adam Sandler last year made sense because his comedies are very popular with Netflix members from all over the world.

James, the star of 2009’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (which grossed $183 million worldwide), its sequel and the “Grown Ups” franchise, has a similarly broad following among international audiences.

Netflix’s strategy for releasing films will become clearer in the months to come. Some of its titles — especially indies that might have a chance at an Oscar run — will receive theatrical distribution as well as play on TV screens. And Netflix’s deep pockets make it possible for it to aggressively compete with old-school film distributors. Earlier this year, Netflix landed the worldwide rights to Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation” ($12 million) and the Jamie Dornan-starrer “Jadotville” ($17 million).

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