MARCH 3 UPDATE: In what will come as little surprise to the industry, reports are circulating that the major US theatre chains are lining up to boycott Netflix’s likely theatrical release in support of an Oscar campaign.
The streaming giant has made another major film play, reportedly paying $12m for world rights to Participant Media’s child soldier drama ahead of a likely first best picture Oscar push.
Idris Elba stars for Cary Fukunaga in Beasts Of No Nation, based on Uzodinma Iweala’s novel about a child soldier in an unnamed West African nation who is commandeered by a warlord after militants kill his father.
It is understood Netflix will partner on a theatrical push. Academy rules state a film must appear in theatres before any other platform in order to be eligible for consideration.
That the company beat out a number of theatrical suitors to Participant Media and Red Crown’s $6m production is no surprise given its deep pockets.
What represents uncharted waters is the Oscar push. Netflix’s award wins in the TV sphere are becoming increasingly commonplace, but it has never backed an Academy Awards campaign for a non-documentary.
The company backed a best documentary campaign for Virunga last season and previously partnered with Participant Media on The Square.
While Beasts Of No Nation has not been seen beyond the low-key screening arranged by WME Global, Netflix’s splashy deal would suggest it has faith in the film, Elba and Fukunaga, who last directed True Detective.
Several weeks ago in Berlin Netflix closed a deal believed to be around $17m with UTA Independent Film Group for world rights to the Jamie Dornan Congo-set war story Jadotville that is set to start production in April. It is understood it may partner with theatrical distributors on that film too.