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Netflix throws down a whopping $30M for Brad Pitt film, War Machine

netflix grabs brad pitt starring war machine shades
Andrea Raffin /

Stepping ever deeper into the high stakes game of film distribution, Netflix is putting up big bucks for the rights to Brad Pitt’s new movie War Machine. The most high profile film acquisition for the streaming service yet, the political satire will star Pitt as a U.S. military general on the edge during the Afghanistan war. The film will be produced by Pitt’s company, Plan B (Selma, 12 Years a Slave), and directed by David Michod (American Kingdom, The Rover).

Considering the A-list lead and his award-winning production company, the film has the potential to be a hit with both critics and discerning fans. And, Deadline reports that for a cool $30 million, the film is Netflix’s most expensive feature film acquisition to date. It will premiere as a Netflix original, available in theaters and streaming to subscribers in 2016.

Inspired by Michael Hastings’ bestselling book The Operators: The Wild And Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, War Machine will follow Pitt’s character, a four-star general, as he leads the U.S. military in the “impossible” war.

“War Machine is a rip-roaring, behind-the-facade tale of modern war decision-makers, from the corridors of power to the distant regions of America’s ambitions,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos in a statement. “Brad and David are a perfect team to make this timely, compelling and entertaining film.”

While the film’s action/production talent, and thought-provoking storyline will certainly bring it plenty of attention, the big question is how its release will play out. Concrete plans for a theatrical release aren’t known, but it’s certainly a difficult ask for widespread play in movie theaters if the the film is to be simultaneously streamed on Netflix at launch.

That’s because each time Netflix has announced a simultaneous release via streaming and in theaters, major theater chains have banned together to boycott the release. Those boycotted films include the Idris Elba war movie about child soldiers in Africa, Beasts of No Nationand the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, for which Netflix has planned an IMAX premiere to coincide with the streaming release.

While reports are conflicting as to whether the film will get a simultaneous theater/streaming release or not, the movie — which isn’t likely aiming for a mass release anyway — doesn’t need to be shown in thousands of theaters to get on the Oscar list. All it needs is an indie theater chain or two to step up, such as The Alamo Drafthouse, which announced plans to screen Beasts of No Nation after the theater boycott was announced. That’s if, of course, Netflix decides to play chicken with theaters again for War Machine. 

Boycotts or no, the latest acquisition certainly hints at a future in which Netflix, and competitor Amazon (which has its own plans for film distribution), are willing and able to pay competition-crushing amounts to distribute major feature films, disrupting the status quo. We’ll update this piece as more details surface about the planned release.

In the meantime, Pitt says he is looking forward to working with Netflix. “We are so excited to be a part of the inspiring commitment by Netflix to produce cutting-edge content and to deliver it to a global audience,” he said in a statement.

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