Fox Searchlight gave the winning bid against Netflix to pick up filmmaker Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation,” which got standing ovations at the Sundance Film Festival this year.
Netflix offered as much as $20 million for the film. Searchlight put out $17.5 million. So why did the festival’s hit go to the lower bidder? The answer may have something to do with Searchlight’s success marketing “12 Years a Slave” in 2013, which won “Best Picture” at the Oscars.
While streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime reach a wide audience, they may not create the award-winning buzz filmmakers, are looking for. “Birth of a Nation” wasn’t the only breakout hit of Sundance. It also wasn’t the only film to generate a more diverse pool of films creating Oscar buzz, which could quell the #Oscarssowhite controversy next year. “Southside with You,” which tells the Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date, is also an early favorite.
While Netflix lost “Birth of a Nation,” it hasn’t hindered the subscription video on demand service, or SVOD, from going after documentaries. Along with Amazon Prime, the SVOD’s made big purchases under the radar, grabbing “Fundamentals of Caring,” “Under the Shadow” and “Tallulah” before they had a chance to premiere at the festival.
The Frame’s John Horn and KPCC film critic Amy Nicholson speak with Larry Mantle about the changes surrounding Sundance this year.
Amy Nicholson, Film Critic for KPCC and Chief Film Critic, MTV News; Amy tweets from @TheAmyNicholson