Deadline is reporting that Annihilation, the highly anticipated (by us at least) science fiction thriller from director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) is likely to skip theatrical distribution in most markets altogether, with Netflix currently negotiating with Paramount/Skydance to handle distro in all territories bar the US, Canada, and China.
If the deal goes through the film will hit the ‘flix 17 days after its US premiere on February 23, 2018.
Based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation sees Natalie Portman’s biologist character volunteering to lead an exploratory mission into an environmental disaster zone after her husband (Oscar Isaac) goes missing, and things just get weird from there. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, and Benedict Wong co-star.
This is an interesting development, following on from the similar deal Netflix cut with New Line for their upcoming Samuel L. Jackson Shaft sequel. With box office real estate increasingly contested and frequently ceded to either tentpole blockbusters or tailored arthouse fare, more niche movies, particularly challenging genre fare, struggle in a market that was formerly more receptive to such efforts.
Garland’s first directorial offering, Ex Machina, was incredibly well received back in 2014, but even in that short span of time the focus on opening weekends has increased, and films like Ex Machina and Annihilation, which truck in heavy themes and complex concepts, do not skip as blithely over the language barrier as a blockbuster written in the language of explosions, so hoping international sales pick up the slack is a gamble (although note that Annihilation is still penciled in for theatrical release in China). As an exploratory strategy, this deal makes sense for Paramount, allowing them to try Annihilation in the theatrical space with the no-doubt lucrative Netflix deal acting as a financial backstop, meaning they’re not as exposed as they would be otherwise.
Still, it sucks that the price for the rest of us is not seeing Annihilation in the cinema.