Netflix Buys Oscar Buzz-y Documentary

Netflix will release 'The Square,' about the Egyptian Arab Spring, early next year.

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Netflix could be placing an Oscar statuette next to the three Emmys the Internet streaming company won this year.

[READ: Netflix Chief, Theater Owners Debate the Fate of Cinema]

Monday the company confirmed reports it was acquiring a documentary, its first major original film. Netflix announced that it had nabbed the rights to "The Square," about the Egyptian Arab Spring, and would release the film on its online streaming platform early in 2014. Netflix's foray into original film comes after the company has gained critical acclaim for its original shows, including "House of Cards," which won Netflix its first Emmy.

Made by director-producer Jehane Noujaim and producer Karim Amer, "The Square" follows the events in Cairo's Tahrir Square starting in 2011, with the overthrow of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, though 2013 with the ouster of his replacement, Mohammed Morsi.

 

An early cut of film won the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival and a later version won the top documentary prize at the Toronto International Film Festival. "The Square" has been released in New York and Los Angeles through independent financing, making it eligible for this year's Oscar race.

[ALSO: Why 'Blackfish' May Be the Best Documentary of the Year]

Netflix chief Ted Sarandos has suggested that original films were next on Neftlix's agenda, a prospect that could shut theater owners out of the distribution process. Tensions came to a head last week when Sarandos accused theater owners of "strangl[ing] innovation," prompting a fiery response from the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Nevertheless, a documentary like "The Square," would likely have only seen a small, limited release, and is not much of a moneymaker for major theater chains. But, if its Netflix release is successful, it could be a sign of bigger film projects to come.

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