Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos recently made headlines with comments suggesting that movie theater owners’ overly protective attitude toward traditional film-distribution windows could ultimately “kill movies.” Included among the eye-catching statistics he threw out at that time: 70 percent of the content currently streamed on Netflix comes from television, not movies. Not surprisingly, the online service has begun producing its own exclusive television series with great success, earning critical acclaim and even Emmy awards for shows like House Of Cards.
Now it looks as though Netflix is expanding its original programming lineup with its own films as well. The Los Angeles Times says Netflix is in “final negotiations” to acquire exclusive rights to Jehane Noujaim’s The Square, an award-winning documentary about the recent revolution in Egypt. Although Netflix did not comment on Steven Zeitchik’s story, he notes that the film, which picked up prizes at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals, was already screening publicly in Los Angeles last weekend with a Netflix logo. Zeitchik says the move marks Netflix’s entrance not only into film distribution, but the Oscar race as well:
“The deal puts Netflix into the thick of Oscar season barely a month after it was a force at the Emmys with multiple nominations for buzzy political soap opera House Of Cards. The Square is currently getting a self-financed Oscar-qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles and is tabbed as a favorite in the documentary category. In The Times on Friday, Kenneth Turan called the film ‘articulate, thoughtful and intensely dramatic.’”
It’s worth noting that The Square would not be Netflix’s first go at indie film acquisition; before the company became a powerhouse in the world of streaming, back when it was still dedicated primarily to renting DVDs by mail, it founded Red Envelope Entertainment to pick up independent movies for the company. Its notable purchases included the Oscar-winning documentary Born Into Brothels and the Duplass Brothers’ debut feature, The Puffy Chair. In 2006, Sarandos told Wired that Red Envelope was not “philanthropy. We’re not ‘supporting the arts.’ This is a market-based solution using technology.”
Hooray for market-based solutions using technology! The Times says The Square will be released on Netflix “in the coming months.”