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Report: Producer disagreement led to Netflix overseas deal for Annihilation

Contributed by
Dec 8, 2017

Reportedly, the reason that Paramount Pictures is letting Netflix distribute the upcoming Annihilation film overseas may not be the one that was first announced.

It was revealed earlier this week that Paramount gave Netflix the international distribution rights to Annihilation, the new movie from screenwriter/director Alex Garland (Ex Machina), with the condition that Netflix pick up most of the movie's estimated $55 million budget.

But the stated reason for this -- that Annihilation will make most of its box-office money here, and that streaming it through Netflix overseas just 17 days after it opens in North America will give it an advantage in those territories -- is allegedly inaccurate.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the deal came about because of a struggle between the film's two major producers, Scott Rudin (Lady Bird) and the head of Skydance Productions, David Ellison (Geostorm).

A poor test screening during the summer allegedly led Ellison to become worried that the movie was "too complicated" and "too intellectual" for audiences. THR's report claims that he wanted the ending altered and asked for changes to the main character, played by Natalie Portman, to make her more sympathetic and give the film more mass audience appeal.

But THR says Rudin, who has final cut on the movie, refused, standing by Garland's cut and not making any changes. Things were reportedly at a standoff until Paramount decided that finding another distributor would make the situation easier to handle -- as long as that company picked up most of the movie's cost. Ellison, who reportedly lost money on Geostorm, apparently agreed to that.

So Garland's version of Annihilation -- based on the eerie and enigmatic book by Jeff VanderMeer about an all-female expedition investigating a strange zone where at least a dozen previous teams have vanished, died, or come back changed -- reportedly remains unchanged.

Paramount and Netflix representatives both had no comment when SYFY WIRE reached out to them. Scott Rudin and Skydance did not return comments at press time.

Garland's other credits include 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, and Dredd. His directorial debut, Ex Machina, was a surprise hit with both critics and fans while being celebrated as one of the more cerebral sci-fi outings of recent years.

But Ex Machina only cost $15 million to make, and there's a whole lot more money at stake in Annihilation. However, it sounds like we'll see Garland's vision -- which the source author himself has already praised -- intact when it opens domestically on Feb. 23, 2018.