Netflix has closed on multi-territory rights to “Mudbound,” a drama about life in the segregated South starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige.
The film premiered to an enthusiastic standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival last weekend. But the movie’s substantial budget (north of $10 million) made a sale close slowly, after a bidding war failed to materialize. Even so, Netflix spend $12.5 million on the film, making it the largest deal to come out of Sundance 2017.
The streaming service will release “Mudbound” in theaters and online simultaneously in the United States. It plans to give the film an awards push, as the film’s Park City debut already sparked buzz for next year’s Oscars.
“Mudbound” stars Mulligan and Jason Clarke as a couple who relocate to rural Mississippi. Their lives become intertwined with a family of black sharecroppers, headed by Blige and Rob Morgan. Garrett Hedlund and Mitchell play returning war veterans whose shared battle experiences enable them to bridge a racial divide and form a friendship. “Mudbound” was directed by Dee Rees, who was previously at Sundance in 2011 with “Pariah.” It is adapted from the Hillary Jordan novel of the same name.
In a largely positive review, Variety’s Peter Debruge wrote, “Rees’ achievement comes in looking past what separates her characters and celebrating what they have in common.”
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The film attracted interest from a number of bidders, with Annapurna Pictures and A24 chasing after the project at different points. It’s not clear how much they were offering and if they submitted formal bids. Despite the audience reaction, there were some concerns about “Mudbound’s” commercial prospects in theaters, because of its unflinching violence.
The deal gives Netflix streaming rights to “Mudbound” in England, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Iceland and throughout Asia, among other regions.
The film was financed by MACRO, Zeal, and Black Bear.