Netflix dropped a whopping $12 million on rights to “Beasts of No Nation,” its first original film, back in Spring 2015, and is following through on its intent to back a proper, albeit technically limited, release alongside the film’s global streaming premiere. (Watch the first teaser below.)
Netflix is partnering with indie film distributor Bleecker Street and exhibitor Landmark to release the film day-and-date on Friday, October 16, 2015 in 19 markets. Clearly, awards are in view and theatrical is needed to achieve that. The film has already booked a Venice competition premiere, followed by a Canadian premiere in Toronto. Which means we should expect “Beasts” to pop up in the secret Telluride lineup.
Written and directed by “True Detective”‘s super-busy Fukunaga, the film centers on Idris Elba as a warlord who takes in a child soldier torn from his family to fight in the civil war of an African country. It’s based on the celebrated novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala.
Landmark—which has never played a VOD film so aggressively across the country—markets include: New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego.
Clearly, Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos has his sights on the big leagues as he continues to rewrite the traditional release model. And he’s not catering to exhibitors. Earlier this year, AMC, Regal, Carmike and Cinemark dug their heels, stating they would not show the film without a 90-day window between its theatrical and streaming premieres.
The Bleecker/Landmark partnership means Netflix is hedging its bets, while also chasing awards glory: If this, their first serious theatrical campaign, fails, that will slow them down.