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Netflix has become a major force in media. They’re not resting on their laurels, however. Not content with just providing mass market TV and movies to millions of people, they’re now expanding their sphere and have begun to create their own original, theatrical quality features. They’ve started with Beasts of No Nations, a limited release prestige picture that was seen in film festivals prior to being seen online. How is the streaming giant doing with this very focused release? Incredibly well, actually.
Speaking with Deadline, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, who has been in charge of this new venture, broke Netflix standard practice of not releasing viewing numbers in order to show off how well the movie has been doing.
It is worth sharing that this movie, in North America alone, has over 3 million views already. Which I think is a bigger audience than any specialty film could ever hope for in its first two weeks of release, and maybe for its entire run. And we’re just starting.
The film stars Idris Elba as a leader of child guerrilla fighters in a West African civil war. In the movie’s first week of release, according to the company's statistics, it was the most watched film in every country where Netflix currently operates. That’s a major success for any film, let alone a specialty feature like this one. These sorts of smaller, what used to be called "art house" pictures are never seen in large numbers of theaters, but Netflix can bring the viewership to these movies like really nobody else can. These movies do even smaller numbers overseas than they do in the US, so the fact that Netflix has made Beast of No Nation a big movie in other countries as well is just another accolade they’ve earned.
The movie is also available to view in a few movie theaters, although because the film has Netflix's name on it, many theater chains are refusing to screen it. It only opened on 31 screens, and it has since fallen to 20. Some theaters are apparently boycotting Netflix films outright. Netflix seems to understand they’ve built a negative reputation amongst the entrenched theater chains, but rather than work to change those perceptions, they instead are simply doing what they can and are letting their success speak for them.
If these are the numbers that Netflix can put up for a specialty film, then it’s hard to tell where the limit will be when their first major releases, like Brad Pitt’s War Machine or Adam Sandler’s The Ridiculous 6, hit the streaming service in the future. They already have Emmy-winning television. How far away is Netflix first Oscar-winning film?