Netflix Moves Into Original Feature Films, Starting This October

Netflix is ready to become a home for feature films, giving the industry a new outlet for movie production in an era of declining ticket sales – a trend that has led to a large influx of what studios’ believe will be sure-fire hits, like remakes and sequels. The first film out of the gate is indicative of the kind of film that could potentially be a critical favorite, but may not have otherwise seen mainstream success. With Cary Fukunaga’s (“True Detective”) “Beasts of No Nation,” releasing on October 16 on Netflix, and starring Idris Elba, the film tells the story of a child soldier torn from his family during a civil war in an African nation.

Based on a book by Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala, the film will also be released to select U.S. theaters on the same day it appears on Netflix, allowing it to qualify for industry awards. For movies like this where the audience is uncertain, the Netflix model means producers get a guaranteed paycheck, regardless of cinema ticket sales, and the film can still benefit from critical praise and any subsequent awards it earns.

Following “Beasts of No Nation,” Netflix says it will release the first of four Adam Sandler films with the launch of “The Ridiculous Six” on December 11, 2015. While Sandler can still churn out hits, his film releases are hit-or-miss. For every box office winner, there are a couple of bombs. However, as DVD and video-on-demand releases, Sandler movies do well. That means they’ll likely work for Netflix’s viewer base, too.

In addition, Netflix will release “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend,” a sequel to the 2000 Oscar winner, theatrically in China and on IMAX and on Netflix globally in Q1 2016. Later comes “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” which arrives on Netflix in March 2016. (More details on the movies themselves are here on Netflix’s site).

Though these are the only titles and dates being announced today by the streaming video service, they aren’t its only big wins as of late. Notably, Netflix recently scored the distribution rights to “War Machine,” a David Michod-directed drama starring Brad Bitt as a U.S. military general. That film is likely Netflix’s largest by budget to date – the company reportedly paid $60 million for the title, though earlier reports had claimed it was “just” $30 million.

As TechCrunch previously reported when news of Netflix’s expansion into feature films first came out last fall, these film titles can help the streaming service build its brand with consumers. People may come to see Netflix as the only place to watch certain movies, similar to how Netflix benefits from serving as the home to popular original TV shows like “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black,” and “Arrested Development,” for example.

Netflix, which has now topped 62 million viewers globally, has been investing heavily in original programming, including new shows like “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Bloodline,” and others. The company’s investment in originals is eating further into its content budget as of late, too – as noted during its recent earnings, the company’s obligations now total $9.8 billion, up 30 percent over last year.