Director Alex Garland’s second film, Annihilation—following Ex Machina—was released in North American theaters in February 2018 and it flopped.

In addition, Paramount sold the film’s international rights to Netflix, so the film won’t be available to the public on widescreen outside of the U.S., Canada and China.

I watched the film on Netflix and—while it is still a great experience—could tell the film was obviously made for big screen and the home viewer surely will miss out not watching it in a movie theater. According to a film critic, Devindra Hardawar :

If you're just watching it on a TV or -- movie gods forbid -- on your laptop or tablet, you'll definitely miss out on the film's epic scope and rich sound design. Several sequences seemed purposefully built to be experienced with a crowd on an enormous screen. A scene with a monster prowling through a room, as our intrepid explorers can only sit trembling, praying not to get attacked, had my audience holding their breath. (I could tell from the collective sigh of relief when it was all over.) The film's astounding finale, a dialogue-free visual feast that would be right at home at the Museum of Modern Art, felt almost like a collective religious experience.

Another fan of Garland’s work wrote:

Seeing Annihilation for the first time on the small screen left me with the sense that I'd missed something from the whole experience. It's the first time I've been denied the opportunity to watch an Alex Garland movie in a cinema, which is how I'd experienced all of his work thus far, from 28 Days Later onward.

Why didn't Paramount give a chance for an international audiences to watch the film on the big screen?

  • 7
    FYI, the Netflix deal was negotiated months before the theatrical release in the US. - And for a comparison with Garland's "Ex Machina": $25.4 domestic, $11.4 international. - "Annilhilation" is currently at $30.8 million domestic.
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 19:28
  • you're right, they announced it in december. i'll edit the q. as for the numbers, sure, Annihilation grossed more ,but wasn't ex machina a low budget one with much lower expectations in the beginning?
    – user38017
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 19:49
  • "so the film won’t be available to the public on widescreen outside of the U.S., Canada and China." - it appears to be available in the UK and AUS/NZ?
    – MrWhite
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 21:53
  • "and the home viewer surely will miss out not watching it in a movie theater. " Some home viewers setups exceed that of the local cinema... a minority I grant you...
    – NPSF3000
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 1:59

2 Answers 2


One major reason was a clash between two of the producers of the movie, Scott Rudin and David Ellison about how the movie should be edited.

The studio is finalizing a deal with Netflix to take over the international distribution of the film [...].

While the move is partly reflective of the concern studios now bring to releasing challenging midbudget movies, one impetus has its roots in a clash between two of the movie’s powerhouse producers.

In one corner is Scott Rudin, whose many credits include The Social Network and Lady Bird, and in the other sits David Ellison, the head of Skydance Productions, the company that made Geostorm and Terminator: Genysis. Skydance is also a major co-financier of Paramount’s slate.


The movie, which wrapped shooting in July 2016, had a poor test screening this summer that sources say was the root of the conflict. After the screening, Ellison became concerned that the movie was “too intellectual” and “too complicated,” according to sources, and wanted changes made to make it appeal to a wider audience. They included making Portman’s character more sympathetic as well as tweaking the ending.

Rudin, who executive produced Ex Machina, sided with Garland, defending the movie and refused to take notes. Rudin was able to hold his line, according to a source, because he has final cut.

Things got testier from there, with Paramount caught in the middle. The studio ultimately decided that finding another distributor, preferably a streamer, could be the best fit for the movie which was deemed to have certain box office ceilings.

With Ellison not wanting to lose money after the poor performances of Geostorm, the billionaire producer is seeking to avoid a worldwide release and hopes that a digital release may be a better fit. The deal calls for Netflix to cover a good chunk of the production budget, which is in the $55 million range.

It’s also a win for Paramount, which limits its exposure in a deal made by a previous regime.

Studios making a distribution deal with Netflix may be coming more commonplace and replacing old rivalries. Earlier this year, New Line made a deal with the streamer to co-finance and take certain rights to its reboot of Shaft which will star Jessie T. Usher and Samuel L. Jackson.

Source: www.hollywoodreporter.com

  • 3
    Funny how as a software developer, I instantly recognise David Ellison as the CEO of Oracle, Larry Ellison's son.
    – Möoz
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 20:51
  • 1
    @Möoz - Obviously David has gone into the business of spending daddy's money investing in films. :)
    – O.M.Y.
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 3:20

Why Paramount did not give a chance to the international public and based its decision solely on the North American Box Office?

Because they didn't want to take the chance.

As you say, the movie bombed...hard and the studio lacked the confidence that it would continue to earn back any money invested in distributing it internationally...especially when they have a guaranteed buyer in Netflix.

The studio has suffered a string of financial flops recently and, in that sense, this was a sound business decision.

Studio execs hate gambling and faced with a pretty sure fire money-loser they did the sensible thing and made the best deal they could.

Many angry fans may not realize that the deal was made following one of the worst financial years in Paramount’s history. Nearly every Paramount release in 2017 was a financial loss, from “Ghost in the Shell’ to “Baywatch,” “Transformers: The Last Knight,” and “Suburbicon.” “The Last Knight” was the studio’s top grosser in the U.S. but it made a franchise low with $130 million. Along with “Daddy’s Home 2,” it was the only Paramount film to break $100 million domestically. Paramount suffered a similar fate in 2016, with few hits outside of “Arrival,” “Fences,” and “10 Cloverfield Lane.” The studio’s top 2016 grosser, “Star Trek: Beyond,” was also a franchise low in the U.S with $158 million.

In the case of “Annihilation,” the box office failures of “mother!” and “Downsizing” had to have made a lot of executives even more scared. “mother!” tapped out at $17 million domestically opposite a $30 million budget. “Downsizing” couldn’t even pass $25 million in the U.S. despite a $68 million budget. To be fair, Paramount’s marketing for “Downsizing” was virtually non-existent, but it’s not like the studio was going to pump even more money into the film after those disastrous “mother!” results.


All of these auteur studio bombs left Paramount with no choice but to sell the international rights to Netflix. It was the smartest decision from a business perspective, albeit a depressing one. The studio would have surely released “Annihilation” in theaters around the world had it known with confidence it could make its budget back. However, after the failures of “mother!,” “Downsizing,” and “Blade Runner 2049”, that logic just doesn’t hold up. Not to mention Paramount had closed out the previous year with a bomb from none other than Martin Scorsese (“Silence,” which earned only $7 million in the U.S.). Any studio executive would be rightfully terrified about releasing a film like “Annihilation” in 2018, and moviegoers have to take accountability for causing this kind of panic.

The key takeaway here is a self-reflective one. Audiences around the world should be mad they have to watch “Annihilation” on Netflix, but they should be more upset with their fellow moviegoers than with Paramount. If viewers are going to demand a studio release a film like “Annihilation” in theaters, then they’re going to have to show studios that films of similar makeup are not financial risks.


  • moral of the story: powerhouse execs are in it for the money. Maybe we should all just save up for those 8.1 surround–sound headsets Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 20:15
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    If viewers are going to demand a studio release a film like “Annihilation” in theaters, then they’re going to have to show studios that films of similar makeup are not financial risks. Who writes that? What a bizarre logic. If there was no financial risk, then there would be a movie glut immediately. Everyone likes riskless money. And how to reduce risk? Should plexes start to sell tickets months in advance? Should the government be asked to provide subsidies? Should one shift to a cinema command economy? Oh well, I hear there is too much gunplay anyway, not at all like in the book... Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 22:46
  • 1
    Isn't the biggest cost of the movie already payed during its production? How can they lose more money by releasing it to theaters, isn't a little money earned in theaters better than zero money?
    – vsz
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 23:04
  • 4
    The movie bombed in theaters because it was sabotaged: limited release, almost no promo, etc.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 1:09
  • 1
    @vsz: "isn't a little money earned in theaters better than zero money?" It costs money to distribute a film overseas. Translations, subtitles or dubbing, cost money too. And that assumes that theater owners are going to buy it at all, considering how hard it bombed. Theaters don't want to take risks either. Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 1:20

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