By Steven Zeitchik
Los Angeles Times
Netflix is adding Ricky Gervais to its film mix of beasts, crouching tigers and Adam Sandler.
The streaming service announced Monday that it has acquired U.S. rights to “Special Correspondents,” a new movie written, directed by and starring British comedian Ricky Gervais.
A remake of French film “Envoyes Tres Speciaux,” “Correspondents” looks at a pair of radio journalists who file fake reports on a crisis in Ecuador without visiting the country, and then must deal with an escalating situation when those reports are taken seriously. Eric Bana also stars.
Netflix said the film will debut in 2016 and that the release would be worldwide. Sony Pictures Worldwide had previously bought overseas rights in places such as the U.K. and Latin America; it is unclear if Netflix would wait for a theatrical window or go day-and-date in those territories.
Netflix in recent months has been moving into the feature game with original productions such as a “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” sequel and a multi-picture deal with Adam Sandler.
It also recently acquired Cary Fukunaga’s child-soldier picture, “Beasts of No Nation.” The company will make these movies available primarily on its service, bypassing traditional theater chains, many of which have said they won’t show Netflix movies.
Netflix hopes that features can augment its core business of streamed series. Questions remain, however, on how well a service known for binge-watching will do with one-offs, and how a film production and distribution model that’s predicated on theatrical releasing will fare without major chains.