Netflix announces Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel as first original film

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With Netflix already earning accolades for its original series programming, it was only a matter of time before the streaming video service dipped into producing original feature films, too. This week, the company revealed the first of multiple films that will debut on Netflix the same day as they premiere in theaters.

Directed by celebrated martial arts choreographer and Tai Chi Master filmmaker Yuen Wo-Ping, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Legend is slated to arrive on Netflix August 28, 2015 — the same day it premieres in IMAX theaters around the world. The film will reportedly serve as a sequel to Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning 2000 film, with Michelle Yeoh reprising her role as Yu Shu-Lien and Ip Man star Donnie Yen playing a character named Silent Wolf. Along with announcing the project, Netflix released two images from the film featuring Yeoh and Yen.

Updated 10/01/14: Netflix’s attempt to bypass the theater industry’s resistance to a duel release of the film in theaters and in homes now appears to have come to an impasse. Shortly after the Netflix’s agreement with The Weinstein Company and IMAX was revealed yesterday, the four largest distribution chains — AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Carmike — collectively pledged not to screen the film next year, according to Advanced Television. And while Netflix had originally seen IMAX’s relatively autonomous film-selection process as a potential advantage for the deal, the four chains directly own 257 of IMAX’s 418 screens in the U.S.

Adding fuel to the flame, Cineplex — Canada’s biggest cinema chain, and Cineworld — Europe’s second-largest theater franchise — have each leant their support to the protest. This development is certainly a setback for Netflix and its partners in the deal, though IMAX technically still has 161 other theaters at which to debut the film. We’ll continue to update this piece as new information becomes available.

While Netflix has been angling to get into the feature-film production side of Hollywood, theater chains’ resistance to the idea of simultaneous online debut for films has proven a major obstacle — a dilemma that led to the company’s deal with IMAX, which has some independence in choosing the films that premiere on devoted IMAX screens. The Green Legend is being co-produced by The Weinstein Company.

“Fans will have unprecedented choice in how they enjoy an amazing and memorable film that combines intense action and incredible beauty,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos in a statement accompanying the announcement. “We are honored to be working with Harvey Weinstein and a world-class team of creators to bring this epic story to people all over the world and to partner with IMAX, a brand that represents the highest quality of immersive entertainment, in the distribution of this film.”

“The moviegoing experience is evolving quickly and profoundly, and Netflix is unquestionably at the forefront of that movement,” said TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein in an accompanying statement. “We are tremendously excited to be continuing our great relationship with Netflix and bringing to fans all over the world the latest chapter in this amazing and intriguing story.”

The Green Legend is based on the novel Iron Knight, Silver Vase by Wang Dulu and written by John Fusco (Marco Polo). Along with Yeoh and Yen, the cast also includes star Harry Shum Jr (Glee), Jason Scott Lee (Seventh Son), Roger Yuan (Bulletproof Monk), and Eugenia Yuan (Revenge of the Green Dragons).

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