A month after Netflix declared it was aiming to raise $1.5 billion worth of corporate debt, industry analysts got a better idea of where some of this money might be channeled after it was announced that the company had put down a competitive $12 million to acquire the global distribution rights to buzzed-about Beasts of No Nation, which it will premiere simultaneously both on the streaming service’s site and in theatres later this year.
Following its Emmy Award-winning successes in original programming like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black and releasing critically acclaimed documentaries—including the Oscar-nominated docs Virunga and The Square, which was DP’d by Documentary grad Muhammad Hamdy—this most recent purchase has many analysts speculating that Netflix is gunning for an Oscar. The film, which was helmed by Emmy Award-winning True Detective director Cary Fukunaga and stars acclaimed British actor Idris Elba, boasts an awards season-friendly plot that focuses on the plight of an African child soldier.
The fact that the company is seeking to show the film in theaters is indicative of its Academy Awards ambitions as a theatrical run is a requirement to be considered for an Oscar nomination. However, how wide of a release the film will receive remains to be seen as most major theater chains will not show films that do not honor the 90-day wait period between theatrical and home entertainment premieres. Furthermore, after the company announced plans to release a sequel to Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in partnership with Imax, it was met with a planned boycott by the major theater chains as that film will also not adhere to the traditional 90-day waiting period.
Beasts of No Nation was also written by Fukunaga and produced for $6 million by Participant Media and Red Crown and filmed last year on location in Ghana. The fact that Netflix was willing to pay double to secure the global rights to the film further indicates that the company believes that this is a film that will be well-received by both critics and audiences as Elba’s performance is already being buzzed about for a potential Best Actor Oscar nomination.