'War Machine' on Netflix: Why the deal matters

Netflix has reportedly obtained the distribution rights to the film 'War Machine,' which stars Brad Pitt as an American general. What does this deal mean for the movie industry?

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Brad Pitt arrives at the AFI Awards at The Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles.

It’s changed the TV business and now Netflix could be shaking up the movie industry.

According to Deadline, Netflix has obtained the distribution rights to the movie “War Machine,” a comedy starring Brad Pitt.

“War” will be available to be seen in some movie theaters, according to Business Insider, but will also be available on Netflix. It will come to both sometime in 2016.

“We are so excited to be a part of the inspiring commitment by Netflix to produce cutting-edge content and to deliver it to a global audience,” Pitt said in a statement.

“Machine” is based on Michael Hastings’ book “The Operators,” which detailed the career of General Stanley McChrystal. The movie will star Pitt as a character that is based on McChrystal, according to Deadline. 

As we previously reported, Netflix is also set to release a sequel to the Oscar-winning movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” later this summer (it will come at the same time to some IMAX theaters). Among other movie deals, in 2014, the streaming service signed a deal with actor Adam Sandler to have four of the movies from his production company premiere on Netflix. 

Why is this different than those previous deals? Many in the industry are viewing this “War” deal as a big step for Netflix and for the movie industry. Deadline writer Mike Fleming Jr. called the move a “game changer… With this deal, [Netflix chief content officer Ted] Sarandos has an opportunity to make the kind of seismic move in features as he did with TV series like ‘House Of Cards’… It is also the first time Netflix has really gotten hold of a film with one of the biggest global A-list movie stars, in his prime, along with his producing cohorts whose recent credits include Best Picture winner ‘12 Years A Slave’ and Best Picture nominee ‘Selma.’” Mashable writer Josh Dickey wrote that the deal means “Netflix… is now in another league… Whatever stigma there may have been around putting a feature film out first on Netflix, consider it obliterated… With an A-list actor in his prime signing on to partner with Netflix first, the streaming network has broken its last barrier to becoming a fully realized Hollywood content producer and distribution model.”

And Business Insider writer Jason Guerrasio wrote that the move demonstrates “once more it is becoming a major player in the film business… A move on a project with A-list backing like Pitt shows that it is seeking out content that will appease a global market. Having Pitt also builds Netflix’s stable of movie talent.”

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