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Updated: Why Netflix Shelled Out for Cary Fukunaga’s ‘Beasts of No Nation,’ Shunned by Exhibitors

Updated: Why Netflix Shelled Out for Cary Fukunaga's 'Beasts of No Nation,' Shunned by Exhibitors

UPDATE: The ink hasn’t even dried on Netflix’s latest deal and already four major theater chains have boycotted the day-and-date release of “Beasts of No Nation.” AMC, Regal, Carmike and Cinemark have stated that they will not show the film without a 90-day window between its theatrical and streaming premieres.

According to Variety, Tim League’s indie chain Alamo Drafthouse will, however, be screening the film when it opens simultaneously in theaters and on Netflix later this year. The Texas-based exhibitor fared well screening “Snowpiercer,” which had a very short window, last Summer.

The four exhibitors that have boycotted the film so far are the same chains that shunned the “Crouching Tiger” sequel when in late 2014 Netflix announced its imminent day-and-date release.

Netflix has stirred the pot once again with its latest feature film release, Cary Fukunaga’s African-set “Beasts of No Nation,” by not exactly catering to the disgruntled exhibitors who dug their heels last year when it was announced that the streaming giant had inked a day-and-date release for Weinstein’s “Crouching Tiger” sequel.

Based on Uzodinma Iweala’s novel, “Beasts of No Nation” will debut in select theaters in 2015 the same day as its streaming premiere which indicates that Netflix, the VOD label behind Participant’s Oscar-nominated “The Square,” might want awards attention for the violent drama starring Idris Elba, making a legit theatrical run essential.

The industry was rocked this week when the cash rich Netflix dropped $12 million on “Beasts” with guns blazing (Deadline has that scoop). While the company stresses that it will back a proper, albeit technically limited, release alongside the film’s global availability on the streaming service, marketing and branding a movie is not the same as streaming TV shows. If Netflix’s theatrical release fails, as this would be their first serious theatrical campaign, that will slow them down.

READ MORE: Five Ways Netflix and Weinstein Push Into the Future with “Crouching Tiger 2”

Clearly, Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos has his sights on the big leagues and is continuing to rewrite the traditional release model. Exhibitors, who want 90 days between a film’s theatrical and VOD premieres, including Regal and AMC have boycotted Netflix’s “Crouching Tiger” release, set for August. But Netflix took the back-door route by booking IMAX screens, which are less ornery about theatrical release windows.

Top specialty players and industry insiders are needless to say concerned by this deep-pocket competition. But Sarandos has slowly inserted himself into the community and has learned a lot since the early, Red Envelope indie pickup experiments. He has Oscar-nominated docs like “Virunga” and “The Square” and has said he would get into narrative pickups with the right project. Thus he has.

READ MORE: Ted Sarandos Attacks Studios and Theaters for Stifling Innovation

“‘Beasts of No Nation’ is a powerful film that unfolds beautifully in the hands of director Cary Fukunaga with Idris Elba delivering a career-defining performance,” said Netflix chief Ted Sarandos. “We are so proud to bring a film of this caliber exclusively to Netflix members around the world at the same time as it appears in select theaters.”

Written and directed by “True Detective”‘s super-busy Fukunaga, the film turns on Elba as a warlord who takes in a child soldier in Africa. Red Crown Productions and Participant Media backed the film, which wrapped last year, and producers are Daniel Crown, Daniella Taplin Lundberg, Riva Marker, and Amy Kaufman. Fukunaga and Elba will also produce, with Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King and Laura Bickford executive producing.

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