Netflix’s relatively recent foray into film distribution just got real. The company has set release dates for several original film projects including the Adam Sandler movie The Ridiculous Six, a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the war film Beasts of No Nation, and the long-tailed sequel to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday.
Detailed by The Hollywood Reporter, Adam Sandler’s Ridiculous Six — which hosts a disparate list of Hollywood stars from Rob Schneider to Nick Nolte — is getting most of the attention. As the first of a four-picture deal Netflix signed with Sandler, the movie will drop December 11 of this year, marking a watershed moment for the streaming-service-turned-Hollywood-studio. The return of Pee Wee Herman — which is set to debut on Netflix in March 2016 with Judd Apatow, producing — is also a highly anticipated venture.
However, perhaps more intriguing (and controversial) is the confirmation of the other films on the list, including the war film starring Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation (Oct 16), and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend, which was originally slated for an August 2015 release date, but is now set for release in IMAX theaters sometime in the first quarter of 2016. The hubub around these films stems from Netflix’s plans to break the theater industry’s hallowed release window by releasing both movies in theaters and in homes via the streaming service simultaneously.
The strategic faux pas of skipping over the standardized hold of several weeks between a theater release and availability in the home has caused an uproar from the major theater chains, prompting a boycott by IMAX owners for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and a similar boycott from the four biggest theater chains (Carmike, AMC, Regal, and Cinemark), of Beasts.
While both boycotts seem like fervent reactions from the red-hot theater industry, the boycotting of Beasts of No Nations, a small indie film set in war-torn Africa, seems particularly reactionary. The movie, which Netflix acquired for a reported $12 million, would likely get only a selective release in theaters, boycott or no, and was likely only targeted for theatrical release to make the art flick eligible for an Oscar run. In the aftermath, independent theater chain The Alamo Drafthouse has pledged to show the film, regardless of its streaming ties. The fate of the pushed-back Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel is still up in the air.
While Netflix competitor Amazon Instant Video has made its own plunge into movie distribution, the rival has avoided the ire of the majors by announcing plans to hold back the release of its acquisitions until they’ve had their fair go at it in theaters for up to 2 months.
However, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Netflix should be the troublemaker as it transitions into film distribution. The company’s massive popularity, stateside and abroad, has already done a number on the traditional pay-TV industry, forcing cable and satellite providers, as well as premium networks like HBO, to rethink how they release their content to consumers, and transition into the world of online streaming.
Now that the movies have gotten release dates (albeit a tentative one for the IMAX feature), we’ll soon see who will blink first — Netflix, or the powers that be in the multi-billion dollar theater industry. As for the other two films, they make one more reason for Netflix subscribers to doll out their monthly dues for more original content. We’ll be keeping tabs on this story as the films near their theatrical run, so stay with us.