Netflix Partners with Weinsteins on New Original Series, Heads for Sundance with Docs in Mind (TRAILERS)

by Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna
January 14, 2014 1:04 PM
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Netflix's Ted Sarandos, Sundance's John Cooper at The Spirit Awards

Netflix not only partnered with the Weinstein Co. for their Golden Globe after party but on several new TV series as well. Ted Sarandos has always been close to the indie film community. In fact, he picked up Oscar doc contender "The Square" and plans to make it available for streaming on January 17--the day after the nominations--followed by a theatrical release in some cities in March. They're even buying billboards around Los Angeles for the film--it's hard to imagine the usual distribution suspects doing that. 

In fact Netflix has an opening night doc at Sundance, "Mitt," an intimate four-year look at Mitt Romney's bid for the presidency, which will be released theatrically in eight cities at the end of the fest, taking advantage of all the immediate hype and buzz it generates in Park City. Netflix wants to buy about ten docs a year, Sarandos told me at the BAFTA pre-Globes party. He prefers to acquire all rights for an upfront minimum guarantee. That way if the movie works out and is popular, all good, and if it doesn't, well, it's on Netflix for making a bad call. While he's been tempted by such commercial narrative films as "The Way Way Back" and "Bad Word," he's sticking to docs for now. 

Sarandos reminded me that on January 1, many deals always expire every year, and the films that are no longer available as a result are replaced by all the new deals coming in. Under pressure to reveal the numbers on such series as "Arrested Development," Sarandos is considering making them public them after a full year. But he's never going to roll out series openings--making all episodes available all at once is their deal.

Netflix had a banner year in 2013 in terms of original programming, with "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black" landing nominations and awards alongside traditionally broadcast series. With 2014 newly upon us, the company is starting up a new original series, "Marco Polo," with the Weinsteins producing, and the "Kon-Tiki" directing duo taking the helm.

As with "House of Cards" and "Orange," all episodes of "Marco Polo" will be available at once; Netflix is eyeing a late 2014 premiere for the series.

Here's the official synopsis:

The epic adventures of Marco Polo, a kinetic tale of high politics, masterful manipulation and deadly warfare among clashing empires, [will center on] the famed explorer’s journey to the center of a brutal war in 13th century China, a world replete with astonishing martial arts, sexual intrigue, political skullduggery and spectacular battles. From directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki, Max Manus: Man of War), executive producer and director Dan Minahan (Game of Thrones, True Blood) and executive producer and creator John Fusco (Young Guns, Hidalgo).

Norwegians Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, who directed the Oscar nominated "Kon-Tiki" and proved their ability for high-seas adventure films, also have 2016's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" on their slate.

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