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Netflix No 'Beast' at the Box Office

19 Oct, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Beasts of No Nation

SVOD pioneer’s shakeup of the theatrical window still a work in progress

Netflix’s first theatrical release, Beasts of No Nation, proved to be a box office non-event, generating less than $51,000 in revenue across 31 screens. The critically-acclaimed drama revolving around an African warlord (Idris Elba) and child soldier (newcomer Abraham Attah), was concurrently available for streaming globally to Netflix subscribers.

That multichannel availability is what generated much of the buzz and ultimately undermined it as a threat to the theatrical window.

A Netflix rep indicated streaming traffic for the film was strong, which is what the SVOD service says about every original show. Netflix, per policy, does not reveal actual streaming data.

Theater owners had expressed concern when Netflix first announced it would release original movies simultaneously in theaters and streaming, beginning with reboot Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend. When the film’s domestic launch, including limited Imax screenings, was delayed to 2016 in China, Beasts of No Nation, a violent film with a gritty story, became the first motion picture in Netflix’s window experiment.

And hardly one at that. With just a smattering of indie theaters showing No Nation, the film, directed by Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective”) generated just $1,635 per screen, to rank 33rd among movies opening through Oct. 18, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. By comparison, Sony Pictures’ top weekend release, Goosebumps, generated $6,712 per screen, or $23.5 million total.

"We would have been surprised had a film performed well in theaters while simultaneously released on Netflix, which is why [the] exhibitor group has been reluctant to participate," Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter wrote in an Oct. 19 note.

To Paul Corcoran with the National Association of Theater Owners, No Nation was not worth the hype some media pundits had suggested as Netflix’s first step in shaking up the movie distribution business.

Corcoran said a movie like No Nation with limited appeal to mainstream audiences was more importantly not a good investment for theater owners to become involved with.

“Frankly, 40 million Netflix subs have already paid for the movie. So when you’re looking to book a movie in your theater, and you’re looking to maximize the number of people to come see it. You’re going to look at things like that,” Corcoran said Oct. 16.

A better indication of Netflix’s window strategy could occur in December when it releases A Very Murray Christmas with Bill Murray, and Adam Sandler’s western comedy, The Ridiculous Six — both movies with built-in mainstream appeal.

Theater groups have again vowed not to screen the films.

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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