By Sahil Patel
Netflix is getting into the film business. The streaming service has ordered its first “original” movie, a semi-sequel to the Oscar-winning 2000 smash hit “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend” will make its Netflix debut on August 28, 2015 — the same day it sees a limited global IMAX release.
Produced by The Weinstein Company, the new film is described as being in the spirit of the original, which was directed by Ang Lee. Based on the novel “Iron Knight, Silver Vase” by Wang Dulu — book five in the Crane-Iron Pentalogy — and scripted by John Fusco, the new feature will be a tale of “lost love, young love, a legendary sword, and one last opportunity at redemption, set against breathtaking action in an epic martial arts battle between good and evil,” according to Netflix.
It will be produced by Harvey Weinstein, Peter Berg, and Sarah Aubrey, and executive produced by Morten Tyldum, Ralph Winter, Anthony Wong, and Bey Logan. Yuen Wo-Ping, a renowned martial-arts choreographer who’s worked on action films such as “Kill Bill” to “The Matrix” franchises, will replace Lee in the director’s chair.
On screen, Michelle Yeoh will reprise her role from the original film, starring alongside Donnie Yen.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend” will be the first of “several major films” backed by Netflix to premiere on the streaming service the same day it’s released in select IMAX theaters worldwide. The distribution model, which bypasses the traditional theatrical window, has been adopted by studios looking to boost the returns on smaller films. For instance, The Weinstein Company was behind “Snowpiercer,” which was successfully released simultaneously in theaters and on VOD platforms in the US.
“Fans will have unprecedented choice in how they enjoy an amazing and memorable film that combines intense action and incredible beauty,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos in a statement. “We are honored to be working with Harvey Weinstein and a world-class team of creators to bring this epic story to people all over the world and to partner with IMAX, a brand that represents the highest quality of immersive entertainment, in the distribution of this film.”
As optimistic as Netflix, The Weinstein Company, and IMAX may be, the film is already, unsurprisingly, facing backlash from exhibitors. For instance, Deadline reports that Regal, the top movie chain in the US, has refused to carry the film.
“Crouching Tiger” is also the second project between Netflix and The Weinstein Company scheduled to come out in the next year. The Weinstein Company is also producing “Marco Polo,” which will debut on the streaming service on December 12. (The film’s riter John Fusco serves as creator and executive producer on “Marco Polo.”)
“We are particularly hopeful it will play in our highly successful China market. In territories where we simultaneously release with Netflix, we are excited to offer consumers the option of deciding how, when, and where they want to view the film, and exhibitors the opportunity to participate in this alternative form of content in a new and innovative way,” said Greg Foster, Senior EVP of IMAX Corp. and CEO of IMAX Entertainment.
Principal photography has begun on the film in New Zealand.