Netflix is no place for new films

Netflix paid nearly $12 million for worldwide rights to Cary Fukunaga’s African war drama Beasts of No Nation.


Netflix paid nearly $12 million for worldwide rights to Cary Fukunaga’s African war drama Beasts of No Nation.

Ethan Sapienza, Staff Writer

Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation” seems fit for Oscar billing. Helmed by a respected and popular director (don’t let season two of “True Detective” overshadow season one’s triumphs), covering a serious issue about child soldiers in Africa and led by the talented actor Idris Elba, the film has all the makings for a best picture contender. The rub: its main release was through Netflix.

This is the first time such a noteworthy film has been released on a streaming platform, but it will not be the last. Netflix has already lined up the new Brad Pitt vehicle “War Machine” for release next year. The dawn of this new era has frightened many major theater chains, like Regal and AMC, into boycotting “Beasts.” As a result, the film will receive a limited theatrical run, though one far smaller than it deserves.

Before anyone leaps to dramatic conclusions, the disadvantage of watching the film in theaters that Netflix remedies should be fleshed out. For one thing, this film is meant to be viewed on a small screen. The cinematography lends itself to be viewed on physically smaller screens because of the film’s vivid and non-stop brutality, which is best captured when in condensed focus. Fukunaga has said so himself, and though many may scoff at the notion, it makes sense. Streaming can be great, but it fails to capture the immersive, visceral, captivating experience of a theater. The image isn’t the same, the sound not as controlling and there is ample opportunity to start and pause the film.

A worthy comparison is to seeing a Jackson Pollack on a computer. Sure, there’s the artwork, but does it capture the intended emotional weight? Nothing can match standing in front of the original, seeing it in all its grandeur. This is not to say all films should be viewed in a movie theater, but something with as much heft and cultural importance as “Beasts” is meant to be seen on the silver screen. A laptop or a TV just won’t provide the same impact and experience that a theater can.

In defense of the casual viewer, movie theaters are expensive. Paying the standard fee for Netflix is great for streaming old content, and the fact that new, award-winning films and television shows will be available makes the service all the more valuable. Not having to leave one’s home to see a new release is a nice, lazy plus as well.

The real benefit of this kind of release is the fact that it could save the mid-budget movie. Today, everything must be adapted from a previous work, have a monstrous budget and be able to spawn a franchise, or have such a miniature budget that if it fails, no one is really losing money. Many great films, including Oscar contenders similar to “Beasts,” lay in a middle ground that has become stale in the film industry in the last 10 years. This kind of release has its issues, but could create a new ground of potent, artistic films.

A version of this article appeared in the Oct. 26 print edition. Email Ethan Sapienza at [email protected].