Variety reports that Netflix is partnering with The Weinstein Company to distribute its first original movie title — a sequel to Ang Lee’s 2000 martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which won a groundbreaking 4 Academy Awards, including best foreign language film. Crouching Tiger will be released in IMAX theaters as well as Netflix simultaneously in the summer of 2015. The film – to be titled Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny – is scheduled to be released on Aug. 28th, 2015. The Weinstein Co. produced by film is reported to be the first of several major releases set to premiere day-and-date both on the VOD service and in select IMAX theaters globally.
The sequel is directed by iconic martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping, a Cult Cinema Icon who directed the seminal kung fu films Tai Chi Master & Iron Monkey, and choreographed fight scenes in “The Matrix” trilogy and the first two “Kill Bill” movies from Quentin Tarantino.
According to the report, Netflix already has a pact with Weinstein Co. that gives the “over the top” service exclusive U.S. subscription television rights to first-run films from the studio starting in 2016, as wells as for an original TV series titled Marco Polo.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny will star Michelle Yeoh, who will reprise her role from the original movie as Yu Shu-Lien, along with Donnie Yen, who will play a character called “Silent Wolf.” The film is currently shooting in New Zealand. It is based on the book “Iron Knight, Silver Vase” by Wang Dulu with a script by Marco Polo writer John Fusco.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny is produced by Harvey Weinstein, Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey and executive produced Morten Tyldum, Ralph Winter, Anthony Wong and Bey Logan. The cast also includes Harry Shum Jr. (Glee, Revenge of the Green Dragons), Jason Scott Lee (Seventh Son, Hawaii Five-O), Roger Yuan (Bulletproof Monk), Eugenia Yuan (Revenge of the Green Dragons) and Natasha Liu Bordizzo.
As expected, theater owners are not happy with the planned Crouching Tiger 2 release plans. In the past, cinema operators have fought attempts by studios to move home video and VOD releases closer to theatrical release dates, fearing the effect on ticket sales.
The planned launch of Crouching Tiger 2 has caused two of America’s largest theater chains, Cinemark and Regal, to state that they are refusing to screen any day-and-date releases in their IMAX theaters.
“While a home video release may be simultaneously performing in certain IMAX locations, at Regal we will not participate in an experiment where you can see the same product on screens varying from three stories tall to 3-inch wide on a smart phone,” said Nunley. “We believe the choice for truly enjoying a magnificent movie is clear.”
Is this a watershed moment for movies? Time will tell. However, it’s clear that distributors are looking for alternatives after the disappointing summer 2014 box office results. Personally, I don’t see why anyone would prefer to watch a movie on a screen “3-inches wide” instead of a beautiful 3-story tall movie screen. But that’s just me.