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Netflix Buys International Rights to Tom Hanks’ ‘News of the World’

News of the World - Universal
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures is selling international distribution rights to the upcoming Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass film “News of the World” to Netflix.

Universal still plans to release the western drama in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day. It’s unclear when the film will be available on Netflix in international territories, but it will likely be in 2021. The deal has not been finalized, but is expected to close soon.

During the pandemic, studios have altered release plans for numerous movies — moving some (like Pixar’s “Soul” and romantic drama “The Lovebirds”) to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus, and others (such as Universal’s “Trolls World Tour,” “The King of Staten Island” and the animated “Scoob”) to premium video-on-demand platforms. Potential blockbusters that were slated for 2020, including Marvel’s “Black Widow” and James Bond sequel “No Time to Die,” still intended to open on the big screen but have been pushed into next year or beyond to steer clear of coronavirus.

Netflix prefers global distribution deals, but it has purchased international rights to movies before, including recently nabbing foreign territories on Paramount’s “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.”

With so many scheduling shifts, “News of the World” is one of the few titles still expected to debut theatrically in North America this year. Part of the reason that Universal is keeping “News of the World” in U.S. theaters is because of an unexpected deal the studio forged with AMC Theatres. Under the pact, Universal can put new movies on video-on-demand within weeks of premiering in theaters without fear that AMC, the world’s biggest cinema chain, would boycott their movies. In return, AMC gets a cut of the digital profits.

Greengrass, who directed the film and co-wrote the script with Luke Davies, previously collaborated with Hanks on 2013’s Oscar-nominated drama “Captain Phillips.”

Based on Paulette Jiles’ best-selling book, “News of the World” follows a widowed Civil War veteran named Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks) who moves from town to town as a nonfiction storyteller, sharing the news of presidents and queens, glorious feuds and devastating catastrophes. When he meets a 10-year-old girl (Helena Zengel) taken in by the Kiowa people years earlier, he promises to deliver her back to her parents.

Hanks has described his character in “News of the World” as a driven and emotional storyteller.

“I love listening to a great story as much as I like telling one, and that’s why I was so excited about playing Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd,” Hanks previously said. “He is moved by the pursuit of the truth.”