Netflix buys ‘Bad Trip’ from MGM after virus upends theater plan

  • Eric Andre, who co-wrote “Bad Trip,” arrives for the world premiere of Disney’s “The Lion King” at the Dolby theatre in Hollywood in 2019. TNS — ROBYN BECK

Published: 5/18/2020 5:02:01 PM

Netflix Inc. has acquired the slapstick comedy film Bad Trip from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, according to people familiar with the matter, snapping up a project that was stuck in limbo when the coronavirus closed movie theaters.

Comedian Eric Andre co-wrote, produced and starred in the film, a hidden-camera comedy about two friends who travel around the country pulling pranks. Bad Trip was supposed to premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, in March, and MGM planned to release the movie in cinemas later in the year.

As theaters around the world closed, MGM began shopping the movie to potential buyers, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing a private transaction. They didn’t provide financial details of the sale, and spokeswomen for two companies declined to comment.

With movie theaters closed, studios have turned to streaming services for help. By selling a movie to Netflix or Inc., MGM can potentially recover its costs and satisfy the talent eager to see their project out in the world. Netflix, meanwhile, gets fresh content with well-known actors at a time when film and TV production is shut down in much of the world.

Similar transactions involving big-budget movies like MGM’s new James Bond film are unlikely. No Time to Die was supposed to premiere in movie theaters in April, but was delayed until November because of the coronavirus. Studios make the most money off movies that get a full run in theaters and are then licensed for home viewing.

Streaming deals

Yet deals with streaming services are appealing for comedies and cheaper movies that have little chance of grossing $1 billion at the box office. Even before the virus, Netflix was acquiring projects once destined for theaters, such as with the 2018 sci-fi thriller The Cloverfield Paradox. As studios shifted their focus to comic-book movies, low-budget horror films and projects deemed less risky in theaters, they have sought to clean their slate of less-certain bets.

These deals have accelerated in the past couple of months. Earlier this year, Netflix bought Paramount Pictures’ The Lovebirds, which was initially supposed to debut in cinemas.

Other studios, including Disney, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros., have scrapped theatrical releases for online rollouts during the pandemic. Some plan to offer movies meant for the theaters on their own streaming platforms, such as Disney with Artemis Fowl. Universal offered Trolls World Tour for rental at home, leading to a rebuke from cinema chains struggling to avoid bankruptcy.

The U.S. theater industry has circled July for cinemas to reopen, but it’s unclear if this will happen. Some cities and states have talked of extending stay-at-home orders through the summer.

MGM discussed selling Bad Trip to other online players before settling on Netflix, said the people. The film was accidentally released on Amazon on April 17, but was quickly taken down. The leak didn’t affect MGM’s ability to close the deal with Netflix, the people said.

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