Moments after Deadline broke news in March that Netflix had acquired the Cary Fukunaga-directed Idris Elba prestige film Beasts Of No Nation as its first major theatrical film, NATO theater chains pledged they would not play the film. Today, Netflix has revealed that it is partnering with distributor Bleecker Street and the Landmark theater chain to gives its first theatrical feature a movie house presence to go along with its global launch on the streaming service. The film will open in Landmark theaters in 19 markets on October 16. It has also unveiled a new teaser trailer for the film (check it out above).
Netflix has already gotten the film into competition at the Venice Film Festival and it is slotted for the Toronto Film Festival as well. The streaming service is doing its part to back a film it hopes will be taken seriously during awards season, and to show others who’ll potentially make movies for Netflix that their films won’t simply be placed on the streaming service and forgotten about. This will be important as Netflix made it clear that it is going for big-name films, as evidenced in its acquisition of the David Michod-directed War Machine, the drama that will star Brad Pitt and be produced by his Plan B. Beasts Of No Nation will open in Landmark theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego.
It will be very interesting to see how the film fares theatrically when Netflix subscribers can watch at home, and it is an important step for the most disruptive company Hollywood has seen in terms of reshaping the landscape of what constitutes a theatrical film. If Netflix puts the investment and care into all the films on its slate, even hardened theatrical traditionalists of prestige films would be hard pressed to deny that Netflix is a viable alternative for certain kinds of films, the ones with volatile, challenging themes. Those films often open in art house theaters and struggle to be seen.
Beasts of No Nation is based on the novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala and focuses on the life of a child soldier torn from his family to fight a civil war in an African country. Abraham Attah plays the youth, and Elba plays Commandant, a warlord who teaches the child how to kill. Would this film have received near as much exposure if it instead had gone to a prestige film distributor for a nominal art house theater run?