Netflix has closed another deal with a filmmaker to produce an original feature film. According to Deadline, the digital media giant has been expanding its original programming by working directly with indie directors rather than through the traditional studio apparatus. This relatively new approach provides benefits to both filmmaker and to Netflix, while increasing the pressures on the big studios.
Karl Mueller (Mr. Jones) is working with Netflix on his next film, Rebirth, a twisted psychological thriller. Mueller is both director and writer for the feature. He’ll be working with an estimated $2 million budget. His cast includes Adam Goldberg (Saving Private Ryan), Fran Kranz (The Cabin in the Woods), Kat Foster, and Harry Hamlin. The story will follow two friends who go on a weekend retreat that doesn’t quite go as advertised.
Netflix caused quite a stir earlier this month with the release of its first original feature, Beasts of No Nation. The company intended to offer the film in a limited theatrical run while also making it available for streaming subscribers. Many major theater chains, including AMC and Regal, refused to carry the film. The conflict comes down to a long standing practice where movie theaters have a minimum of 90 day window to show a film prior to its video release. There’s been growing pressure for some time (from the studios) to reduce that window. Netflix’ decision to distribute both in theaters and through their service simultaneously seemed to cross a line.
“Netflix is not serious about a theatrical release,” says Patrick Corcoran, vice president of the National Association of Theatre Owners. “There isn’t a real commitment.”
It’s worth noting that Beasts of No Nation was not the first film to be offered both streaming and in theaters at the same time. Studios have done this in recent years with potentially weaker titles through partnerships with DirectTV and Apple’s iTunes. The difference this time is that Netflix created the film without a studio and may be trying to set a new precedent for the industry.
One can wonder if more viewing choices wouldn’t expand the overall revenue for the film industry? That is to say, isn’t it ultimately about how many viewers see the film?
“It’s not equal space,” says Phil Contrino, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “A lot of people subscribe to Netflix and they can watch Beasts of No Nation at home. How many of those subscribers are going to go see it in theaters?”