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‘The Starling’: Netflix Lands $20 Million Deal for Ted Melfi’s Film, Starring Melissa McCarthy

Netflix reportedly spent $20 million for the film based on a four-minute highlight reel, suggesting that companies will go to great lengths to secure original projects in an industry wracked by a content drought.

Melissa McCarthy'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' premiere, BFI London Film Festival, UK - 19 Oct 2018

Melissa McCarthy

James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock

Netflix has reportedly won an auction and acquired the world rights to the Ted Melfi-directed “The Starling” in a $20 million deal.

Deadline reported the transaction was made on the basis of a script and a four-minute promo reel, underlying the lengths that companies will go to to secure noteworthy original content in an entertainment industry suffering from a drought of new films and television shows.

Although Netflix has begun shelling out more money for original film and television projects over the last year as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to bulk up its originals’ slate, its “The Starling” pickup is particularly notable; Netflix higher-ups might not have had an opportunity to watch the final cut of the film, which stars Melissa McCarthy, Kevin Kline, Chris O’Dowd, and Timothy Olyphant, but that didn’t stop the company from shelling out an eight-figure sum for the project, which has completed principal photography and is in post-production.

“The Starling” centers on Lilly (McCarthy), a grieving woman who recently suffered a tragedy that has put strain on her marriage. Lilly attempts to heal her emotional pain by gardening but her situation turns surreal when a large starling in a nearby nest continuously attacks her. Lilly seeks out a way to humanely deal with the bird and meets a psychiatrist-turned-veterinarian (Kline) for help.

Netflix officially announced the acquisition on Monday but a company spokesperson declined to discuss the terms of the deal.

Deadline reported Netflix will aim to premiere the film during awards season — unsurprising, given Melfi’s pedigree after directing “St. Vincent” and “Hidden Figures” — but the $20 million acquisition says more about the state of the industry, as multiple distributors face a dire need for new content. Netflix, like most other entertainment companies, has been forced to halt production on practically all of its film and television projects in recent weeks. The prodigious output Netflix has employed for years needs to continue, even if it’s output is slowed down, but there’s a scarcity of original content on the market due to the shutdowns.

Given how few upcoming films and television shows without distributors are available for purchase, especially projects that are potential awards season-contenders, it’s likely that Netflix’s big-money purchase is a sign of more stiff competition for finished projects in the weeks and months ahead.

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