What Does Netflix's Purchase of "Mowgli" Mean for the 3D Version?

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The planned theatrical release of "Mowgli" has been cancelled.  Instead of releasing Andy Serkis's much anticipated 3D event film in theaters on October 19, the film will instead premier globally on Netflix sometime in 2019.  I don't know what this means exactly.  Either Netflix has gotten so big they could afford to take a $200 million dollar film off Warner Bros. hands, or Warner had so little faith in the movie that they decided they would be better off getting some money from Netflix and cutting their losses on the rest.  Either way, we're going to have to see what this means for the movie and the quality of it.  This isn't the first time Netflix has done this.  They bought the rights to Paramount's "The Cloverfield Paradox" and gave it a surprise launch after the Super Bowl earlier this year, and they bought the distribution rights of "The Little Prince" from them as well when Paramount decided they didn't want to release the film at the last minute.

In both cases the movies disappeared almost as soon as they showed up.  Debuting movies on streaming services does create a big initial splash, but movies rarely have the staying power as that of a TV show.  It's an area where Netflix has been struggling with, as they tend to be a better TV show maker than film maker.  For these reasons many have been suggesting the company start making their properties available for purchase in physical medium formats, and today's acquisition of "Mowgli" makes another case for that (which we'll get into later).  However, we first need to talk about the part of the acquisition that readers here are most likely concerned about: The 3D version of the film.  After all, Serkis has been upfront that this is going to be a "3D epic" on the level of "Avatar" and "Gravity."  Even today as the news of Netflix acquiring the film broke, he emphasized that the worked really hard on the 3D version, and that it is an entirely different beast than what you will see if you watch it in 2D.

And for those who remember when Netflix bought the rights to "The Little Prince," the 3D version was not released in America.  As someone who owns a Hong Kong BluRay 3D of the film, I can not stress how much Americans missed out on not being able to watch this version (also as one of the few people in America who saw it in theaters, I can confirm many of you missed out on that experience in general).  Thankfully, that seems to have been taken into consideration by Netflix.  They announced upfront that there would be a 3D only theatrical release coinciding with the streaming launch, to ensure that people who want to see the 3D version of "Mowgli" has a chance to do so.  No word on whether or not this will include an IMAX 3D release, but considering it was announced in advance, that version is completed, and Netflix already has a working relationship with IMAX after they were the exclusive theatrical distributors of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny," I would suspect that this would be the case.

For me, I always advocate seeing movies in theaters.  With how much money "Mowgli" cost to make, I think this is a loss if you decide to watch it on a TV for the first time.  I am thankful that Netflix is planning a theatrical release for the 3D version (as it at least gives people curious the chance to see it), but I hope they take it a step further.  Personally, I would like them to release it as a 3D exclusive events two weeks before launching the title on the streaming platform.  Give people a chance to pay money to see it and give the film a chance to garner word-of-mouth on how awesome it is (if it is...there's a very real chance the movie could be terrible).  Then, launch it on streaming while keeping the 3D version in theaters.  Who knows, there may be some people who are so blown away, they'll want the chance to view it on the big screen.  Finally, it's time to release this sucker in a UltraHD/BluRay 3D/BluRay combo pack.

You can decide whether you want to give a digital copy away or not, but this is a movie that people will want to see in the highest quality possible.  That means disks.  In fact, you don't even have to send it to Wal-Mart or Best Buy.  Make it a Netflix exclusive.  That way, you can charge the retail price and insure that no retailer can sell it for less.  And I know they don't want to release disks because they want people to continue to pay for their subscription, but as the company has been finding out, movies come and go.  TV shows are what gets people coming back.  Since movies only provide spurts of visitors, get those spurts, release the disk, and make some money.  Otherwise the movie just sits on the server somewhere, not being watched and being forgotten about.  And - again - since "Mowgli" WAS meant to be watched in 3D, unless you stream it as such the theatrical release is a temporary solution at best.  If fans want to experience it again, they'll want to own a BluRay 3D copy.

Whether or not we will be able to own the 3D version aside, Netflix's acquisition of "Mowgli" is by far their most expensive.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and whether or not people will pass on seeing what is clearly a big screen spectacle on the small screen.  I do admire Netflix for pumping money into movies that might otherwise not get made (and Serkis himself compared his movie to that of another Netflix production - "Okja" - which had distribution problems because if its own subject matter).  The idea of taking these larger-than-live movies and premiering them at home IS cause for concern from me as a movie fan, and it's a shame that most people don't get to experience movies like "Mudbound," "The Little Prince," and "Death Note" in a theater, where the atmosphere and audience reaction would be an added benefit to these movies.  Still, as far as this blog is concerned, at least Netflix is committed to letting us see the 3D version of "Mowgli" in theaters, which is a huge plus as far as I'm concerned.


  1. Unknown said...:

    I feel gutted that i missed the 3D theatrical run of Mowgli, this is a "must have" blueray for me in the best format i can get,a truly unique take on RKs work that I wish becomes more prolific.
    The darker more confronting tack on anthropomorphic animals is a rare beast indeed and needs vocal support to insure a future where Disney style newtered,politically correct fuzziness rains unchecked.

  1. Unknown said...:

    "No longer" rains unchecked

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