EXCLUSIVE: Netflix has firmed plans to release its first batch of theatrical-quality films. The streaming service’s feature film initiative begins with the October 16 release of Beasts Of No Nation, the drama about a child soldier torn from his family and pressed into fighting a civil war in an African country. The film is directed by True Detective‘s Cary Fukunaga and stars Idris Elba as a warlord who mentors the young man (played by Abraham Attah). Based on the novel by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts will be released on Netflix in all territories, and on the same day it will be released in select U.S. theaters by distributor Bleecker Street. That will qualify the film for awards-season consideration. Amy Kaufman and Fukunaga produced with Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Riva Marker, Dan Crown and Elba. Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Laura Bickford and Donna Guiliatti are executive producers.
The second release will be The Ridiculous Six, the first of four films that Adam Sandler will star in and produce through his Happy Madison banner. The comedy premieres on Netflix on December 11, with Sandler starring alongside David Spade, Terry Crews, Jorge Garcia, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson and Nick Nolte. Sandler’s The Wedding Singer helmer Frank Coraci directed the comic ensemble Western from a script by Tim Herlihy and Sandler, and Sandler and Allen Covert produced it.
Netflix has scheduled a first-quarter 2016 release of Crouching Tiger, , which will be released globally to Netflix subscribers and will also theatrically in China and in Imax. The film, directed by legendary martial arts choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping from John Fusco’s adaptation of the Wang Dulu novel Iron Knight, Silver Vase, stars Michelle Yeoh who reprises her role as Yu Shu-Lien, Donnie Yen, Harry Shum jr, Jason Scott Lee, Roger Yuan, Eugenia Yuan and Natasha Liu Bordizzo. The Weinstein Company produced the film, with Harvey Weinstein, Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey producing, and Morten Tyldum, Ralph Winter, Anthony Wong and Bey Logan the exec producers.
The final film on Netflix’s inaugural feature slate will be the March 2016 release of Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, with Paul Reubens reprising his signature irrepressible man-child character. Reubens cooked up the film with Judd Apatow, and Reubens and Paul Rust wrote it with John Lee directing.
As Deadline scooped last month, Netflix continues to push the envelope on its feature initiative when it acquired the David Michod-directed War Machine, with Brad Pitt starring as a character based on Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for a time the commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The film is a satirical comedy inspired by the bestselling book The Operators: The Wild And Terrifying Inside Story Of America’s War In Afghanistan, by the late journalist Michael Hastings. Script was written by Michod, whose credits include Animal Kingdom and The Rover. Pitt and his Plan B cohorts Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner will produce with Ian Bryce. That film will likely be Netflix’s largest budget film so far, around $40 million below the line, with Netflix paying a premium to take off the table a film that traditional prestige film distributors were salivating over. As Netflix continues to broaden globally a subscriber base that has grown beyond 62 million, the streaming service will continue to challenge the conventions of the feature film business.