On October 16, 2015, Netflix released its original movie, “Beasts of No Nation,” directly onto their website the same day it came out in theaters. This method is called “day and date releasing” and although this isn’t the first time it has happened, this is still a significant release in the history of cinema. The 12 million dollar movie opened in 31 theaters and grossed only 50 thousand dollars during the opening week, but high ticket sales was not what Netflix and director, Cary Fukunaga were after. With more than 64 million Netflix subscribers, releasing “Beasts of No Nation” directly onto the website gave the film much more exposure than it would have received if it was solely released in theaters. Senior and film buff Steve Roy had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Fukunaga at a pre-screening in Corte Madera. “He seemed like a very genuine and honest filmmaker whose biggest concern was people actually watching his film,” said Roy. “He already has his name out there from the first season of “True Detective” and he wanted to show people that he had a lot of range in terms of his directorial skills.” Releasing “Beasts of No Nation” on Netflix not only increased the social buzz of the movie(just in time for the Oscar Season), but it defied the very structure of the way we view films. This day and date release gained disapproval from the country’s four largest theater chains – AMC, Regal, Cinemark, and Carmike – and they refused to show the movie in their theaters. They claimed that it undermined the traditional 90 day delay between a theatrical debut and home entertainment and in result, would cut into profits.
I don’t think the large corporations will be changing their release format anytime soon, but the fact that Netflix is pushing the boundaries of entertainment, shows how in touch it is with its subscribers. We live in a generation of expediency, where patience has become a lost art. In a documentary I recently watched called “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” director David Fincher(“Seven,” “Fight Club,” and “Gone Girl”) discussed how these days, the audience has become hooked on visual hyperbole and how there is a climax every five minutes. Whether it is watching a film with little action, or craving the release of a film that isn’t out yet, people don’t want to wait anymore, and Netflix has made it where they don’t have to.
Personally, I believe going to the theater is a much more immersive experience. The large screen, surround sound audio, and lack of distractions, does a better job of transferring me into another world than a tablet or a TV does. But in reality, time is precious, and many people, especially students, don’t have the time to drive to a theater and give three hours out of their day. But aside from being the first day and date release on Netflix, there is something else that’s special about Beasts of No Nation. It wasn’t made by a studio.
Since the 12 million dollar project was funded by Netflix opposed to a large studio like Warner Brothers or Universal, there was more freedom to explore the controversial topic of child soldiers in a more realistic way that wouldn’t have been approved by those large corporations. “I love that Cary Fukunaga fought for his artistic independence,” said Roy. “Unless you are in the top 1% of filmmakers, you are not going to get that independence from the large production companies.” Personally, some of my favorite films are those that push the boundaries of normality(“Clockwork Orange,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “American Psycho” to name a few) and I love that Netflix was willing to take the risk of funding a movie with such a controversial topic. If there is one thing to take away from this, it is that cinema is heading in a direction it has never gone before, but no matter the way we view films, the content doesn’t change. If you haven’t seen it already, I highly encourage you to check out “Beasts of No Nation.” Whether you go to a theater, or watch it on a laptop sitting in your bed, appreciate the film’s raw originality and the director’s unaltered vision.