Netflix has been shaking up the movie industry for quite some time now, but the latest deal they've been circling might be one of their most disruptive moves yet. Late last year, Deadline reported that Netflix had been in conversation with Paramount and Skydance to sort out a potentially groundbreaking deal for the upcoming Natalie Portman-starring Annihilation, which is due to release in theaters on February 23. The international release rights were subsequently sold for an undisclosed amount.
The Alex Garland-directed sci-fi thriller will be hitting Netflix overseas after the film hits theaters in the U.S., Canada, and China. Paramount is already doing the traditional theatrical release for the film in those three markets, but they've done something pretty much unheard of for international rights. Whether this is an attempt to guarantee some easy money in the face of financial woes or part of an ongoing shift remains to be seen, but what we do know is that Netflix is serious in challenging theaters head-on.
Last night, Netflix pretty much made history by revealing the first trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox during the Super Bowl and releasing it just hours later. While early critical response to The Cloverfield Paradox suggested that Paramount made the right decision in selling the rights to the film, which cost $45 million, to Netflix, Annihilation seems like more of a potential hit. The director of the film, Alex Garland, is behind 2015's surprise hit Ex Machina, and sci-fi in general is in high-demand right now.
However, the film will almost definitely appeal to the North American market a lot better than it will in international markets, which might be why Paramount jumped at the chance to save a little money and make the $55 million budget a bit of a safer bet for them. But other studios already seem to be taking notice of their approach, with New Line Cinema inking a deal to co-produce the upcoming Shaft reboot with Netflix. New Line will release Shaft domestically, while Netflix will handle the international release.
It's not clear if this is the start of a massive shift or just a number of smart one-off business decisions for these studios, who're tactically releasing some of their harder to market releases on Netflix instead of theaters. Regardless, Netflix continues to evolve and change the movie industry.