Everyone's best friend, Netflix, has a problem. The big bad movie theatres of America refuse to screen the upcoming Idris Elba movie Beasts of No Nation -- because Netflix owns it. Now we all have a problem, because we need as much Idris Elba on silver screens as possible.
The four largest movie theatre chains have united to deny screenings of Beasts, a buzzed-about film based on the bestseller by Uzodinma Iweala and directed by True Detective's Cary Fukunaga. Netflix bought the movie for $US12 million after a bidding war, and plans to release it simultaneously streaming online and in theatres.
"Simultaneously" is the word that has the theatre chains incensed. Generally, they insist on a 90-day window between a movie leaving theatres and its appearance online or in rental stores (ha ha, rental stores). Netflix has to worry about the chains' hissyfit because if they want Beasts to be eligible for Oscar consideration, the movie is required to have a theatrical release.
Netflix is rolling with it. They will be able to secure Beasts a smaller release in independent and art house theatres. And quite likely, they will be laughing all the way to the bank. Netflix is masterful at publication and promotion, and its obsessively loyal audience, which already loves Elba for his roles in Luther and Thor, will no doubt be quick to click on the movie. I click on anything involving Idris Elba's face.
The kerfuffle over Beasts will be a good test for Netflix, which wants to get into the new releases game for film following the success of its original series. It's less of a fun stress-test for the Big Four theatres, which can probably sense their growing irrelevance. If Netflix can buy a movie out from under Hollywood studios, do its own PR, its own release, and maybe win an Oscar, who needs to go outside to the movies anymore?
While you contemplate the future of film and whether it will have a physical home in the future, I'll be over here thinking about Idris Elba hanging out with dinosaurs in the Jurassic World, like I do most days.