Annihilation sold to Netflix for being “too intellectual”
VOD News | On 08, Dec 2017
New broke this morning that Alex Garland’s new science fiction thriller was being partialy offloaded to Netflix by Paramount. The deal, which will see the movie released on Netflix just 17 days after its theatrical debut, will result in traditional cinema distribution in the US, Canada and China, but use the streaming service for international reach.
The agreement marks Netflix’s continuing push to position itself as an industry disruptor with clout, as well as an indicator of the potential future for some movies, as Netflix’s ability to pay up front helps to offset studio marketing and distribution costs. However, it also highlights another behind-the-scenes factor: a dispute over how “intellectual” the movie was.
The project is produced by two industry heavyweights: Scott Rudin (The Social Network) and David Ellison, head of Skydance Productions (Geostorm). However, they fell out over the movie, after a poor test screening. The Hollywood Reporter, which exclusively unearthed the off-screen snafu, reveals that Ellison feared the film was “too intellectual” and “too complicated” for a mainstream audience. He suggested changing the ending, as well as making Portman’s character more sympathetic.
With Skydance a major co-financier of Paramount’s slate, Ellison has a lot of influence – but in this case, Rudin has final cut on the project, and has been able to hold his ground, siding with Garland after exec-producing Ex Machina and refusing to make changes.
The result was a decision by Paramount to find a streaming distributor that could help save the situation and cover a large part of the circa $55 million budget. While that raises concerns about studios’ willingness to release films that could be deemed too intellectual or complicated on the big screen, it also highlights the important role that streaming platforms can play in Hollywood’s future, not only supporting the kind of mid-budget project that is increasingly difficult to get backed, but also providing platform and global reach for films that traditional producers are too afraid to back.
Netflix to stream Alex Garland’s Annihilation internationally after US cinema release
7th December 2017
Netflix is in talks with Paramount to stream Alex Garland’s new film, Annihilation, within days of its US cinema release.
A sci-fi thriller from the writer and director of Ex Machina, Annihilation already arrives with a hefty amount of expectation. Throw in a cast that includes Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Gina Rodriguez, and you have a genre title with awards and audience potential.
The movie is based on the first in Jeff VanderMeer’s bestselling Southern Reach trilogy of novels. It follows a biologist (Portman), who, after her husband (Isaac) goes missing, volunteers for a secret mission into alien territory, where a shape-shifting Northern Lights-esque being awaits.
If all that sounds like a must-see for sci-fi fans, Annihilation just had its profile boosted by Netflix’s groundbreaking deal, which Deadline reports will see the film premiere worldwide just 17 days after its theatrical debut. Paramount will follow a traditional cinema release in the US, Canada and China, the world’s biggest theatrical markets. Indeed, conventional wisdom dictates that a relatively specialised movie such as Annihilation generates the majority of its theatrical revenue on home soil, rather than overseas – Ex Machina grossed $25.4 million in the US and $11.4 million overseas. With Netflix’s lump sum upfront and a reduced spend on P&A in a large number of countries, the deal marks an attractive way for Paramount to recoup its budget. It also marks Netflix’s continuing push to position itself as a major disruptive force in the industry, capable of rivalling traditional distribution, without replacing cinemas entirely.
It follows a similar deal recently made with New Line for its upcoming sequel to Shaft (with Samuel L. Jackson in the role of John Shaft), as Netflix looks to step up its global clout. The film is currently scheduled for a 23rd February release in US cinemas, with the Netflix debut therefore following at the start of March. Here’s a trailer for the film: