[Update: AMC is also refusing to screen Crouching Tiger 2 in IMAX.]
Last night, we received the (unexpected) news that Netflix has struck a deal with The Weinstein Company for the entertainment streaming service to exclusively premiere the sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend in Summer 2015. The plan is for the film to be made available on Netflix the same day that it begins screening in IMAX theaters around the globe; as you might've predicted, though, certain U.S. theater chains are already balking at this proposal.
Director Ang Lee's Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger movie, for those unaware, is based on just one chapter in a much larger story, known as the Crane-Iron Pentalogy written by Wang Dulu. Green Legend, as it were, will be loosely based on the installment "Iron Knight, Silver Vase", and the film's narrative - as scripted by John Fusco (The Forbidden Kingdom) - is officially described as follows:
['Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend'] echoes the themes of the original movie, but tells its own story — one 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 that will decide the fate of the Martial World.
Principal photography on The Green Legend is currently underway in New Zealand, with Yuen Wo-Ping - martial arts choreographer/stunt coordinator on the Kill Bill films, Kung Fu Hustle, and Forbidden Kingdom (he's also been directing martial arts films since the late 1970s) - calling the shots. The first official screenshots from the Crouching Tiger sequel have been released, showing Michelle Yeoh - reprising her Crouching Tiger role as Yu Shu-Lien - and Donnie Yen (Ip Man 1 & 2) as a new character, known as Silent Wolf.
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What sets The Green Legend apart from, say, past films that have been made immediately available for home viewing (such as direct-to-DVD fare) is that the former very much has the production values and qualities of your average studio-backed film intended for a wide theatrical release. Variety is reporting that both Regal and Cinemark have announced that they won't be showing the Crouching Tiger sequel in the chains' IMAX theaters; for more, here is the statement issued by Regal spokesman Russ Nunley.
“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. We believe the choice for truly enjoying a magnificent movie is clear.”
The statement from Cinemark spokesman James Meredith likewise says that the theater chain "does not play day-and-date movie release on any of our screens," including IMAX theaters - and thus, the company won't be showing the Crouching Tiger sequel.
It'll be interesting to see which other U.S. theater chains (for example, AMC) follow suit, given the major chains that have already come out against this move. If Netflix's plan with The Green Legend works out, then it could help to further shorten the time between the theatrical premieres and video releases for studio-backed films intended for wide release. (UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long; Variety is now reporting that AMC has also confirmed that it won't be showing The Green Legend in its IMAX theaters.)
In addition to its Green Legend "experiment," Netflix will also be branching out in 2015 with Marvel Studios' Daredevil series - setting things up for three additional Marvel series and a crossover mini-series - along with even more original content and programming, such as the Marco Polo series (which, as it happens, Green Legend screenwriter John Fusco is also working on). Suffice it to say, the streaming service looks to remain in a comfortable place for the foreseeable future.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend will be available on Netflix and screen in select IMAX theaters starting August 28th, 2015.