Why has Netflix quietly moved their much-ballyhooed acquisition of David Michôd’s “War Machine,” a satiric comedy starring Brad Pitt as a general based on Afghan star Stanley McChrystal, back to 2017?
Netflix is making room for another Brad Pitt movie with awards in its sights, they confirmed. Paramount is releasing Bob Zemeckis’s World War II espionage romance “Allied,”starring Pitt and Marion Cotillard, on November 23. Pitt likes this period: he played military men in both Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” and David Ayer’s “Fury.”
Produced by Pitt’s Plan B with Ian Bryce, “War Machine” marks Netflix’s highest-budget movie commitment to date—Ted Sarandos paid a reported premium higher than its $60-million budget because when the online streamer buys all world rights to a property, it’s a flat acquisition. They pay no overages in success.
But clearly, reaching viewers directly through Netflix is the goal for Pitt and his team on “War Machine,” which shot in Abu Dhabi for Kabul. The movie would be costly to market in a challenging environment. And they’re betting on studio-backed “Allied” for the Oscars.
Unlike Amazon Studios, which is chasing Oscars this year with movies such as Kenneth Lonergan’s Sundance hit “Manchester by the Sea” (November 18)— released via theatrical distribution partner Roadside Attractions—Netflix is sticking to its core streaming business after licking its wounds on “Beasts of No Nation” last year. Netflix paid Cary Fukunaga and his team $12 million for world rights, but the festival hit lost money in theaters (where it grossed just $90,000) and failed to land any Oscar nominations. (Netflix does better gaining awards attention for its documentaries.)
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So as the annual award-season shuffle shakes out, you can take “War Machine” off the Oscar 2017 release docket. Maybe next year.