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A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
On the heels of releasing its first feature film, (Beasts of No Nation grossed $90,777 in limited release), Netflix is ramping up its movie ambitions, scooping up two new indie films as it campaigns Beasts for an Oscar.
The streaming media company is planning a day-and-date theatrical release for Girlfriend’s Day, a noir comedy featuring Bob Odenkirk as a down-on-his-luck greeting card writer who attempts to clear his name after he’s framed for murder. The Better Call Saul star co-wrote the script with Philip Zlotorynski and Eric Hoffman and is producing with Marc Provissiero of Odenkirk Provissiero Entertainment and M. Elizabeth Hughes.
The film, directed by Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie) and co-starring Amber Tamblyn as a femme fatale, continues Netflix’s relationship with Odenkirk, whose sketch series W/ Bob & David (in which he stars with his Mr. Show With Bob and David collaborator David Cross) premiered on the streaming site on Nov. 13.
Netflix also has nabbed a previously unannounced project titled Mercy, which Chris Sparling — who wrote the 2010 Ryan Reynolds thriller Buried and Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees — wrote and will direct.
Mad Men’s James Wolk and Master of Sex’s Caitlin FitzGerald will star in the home invasion thriller, which recently completed filming. The story centers on four estranged brothers who return to their childhood home to be with their dying mother, and find their bond tested after old family secrets begin to surface.
Tom Lipinski (The Knick), Michael Godere (The Affair) and Dan Ziskie (House of Cards) also star in the film, which is produced by XYZ Films’ Kyle Franke and Nick Spicer and Uncorked Productions’ Andrew D. Corkin along with Robyn Bennett. Netflix is planning on using its new model where it releases the film in theaters first and soon after makes it exclusively available on Netflix.
“We’re excited to expand our independent film slate and work hand-in-hand with some of today’s great creators,” says Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos of the new projects.
Netflix’s push into the original indie space is a boon to film producers, who often have trouble finding theatrical distribution for small-scale projects. It’s also a shot against Amazon, which has positioned itself as an indie platform, bringing in veteran executives Ted Hope and Bob Berney. In addition to bigger-budget offerings from Adam Sandler, Netflix has a four-picture deal with indie heavyweights Jay and Mark Duplass (two of their films — 6 Years and Manson Family Vacation — are now streaming) along with the recently acquired psychological thriller Rebirth from writer-director Karl Mueller. Rebirth, Girlfriend’s Day and Mercy will be released in all Netflix markets worldwide in 2016.
Adds Sarandos: “Given our global scale, Netflix is uniquely positioned to allow these high-quality, niche titles to be viewed and enjoyed by the biggest possible audience around the world.”
James Wolk’s credits include The Crazy Ones, Mad Men, Zoo and the recent film The Stanford Prison Experiment. He’s repped by ICM Partners, Greenlight Management and Frankfurt Kurnit.
FitzGerald has been seen in Adult Beginners and It’s Complicated. She’s repped by ICM Partners and Anonymous Content.
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