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Netflix’s Oscar ambitions show with its latest movie deal

Netflix Illustrations Ahead Of EarningsNetflix Illustrations Ahead Of Earnings

Netflix’s latest movie deal could help the company further compete with its Hollywood rivals while potentially adding to its trophy case.

The online video streaming service confirmed Tuesday that it has acquired the rights to the film Beasts of No Nation, a solemn drama about West African child soldiers. The movie, which is based on Uzodinma Iweala’s 2005 novel of the same name, stars Golden Globe-winning actor Idris Elba and was written and directed by Cary Fukunaga, who won an Emmy Award for directing HBO television show True Detective.

Entertainment website Deadline reported Monday that Netflix (NFLX) is close to a deal to pay $12 million for worldwide rights to the film, which is being touted within Hollywood as a potential candidate for Academy Award nominations. Netflix is expected to push the film as an Oscars contender after reportedly outmaneuvering several other bidders for distribution rights.

Beasts of No Nation is a powerful film that unfolds beautifully in the hands of director Cary Fukunaga with Idris Elba delivering a career-defining performance,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement. “We are so proud to bring a film of this caliber exclusively to Netflix members around the world at the same time as it appears in select theaters.”

Netflix said in a press release that it plans to debut Beasts of No Nation at some point later this year “on the same day in select theaters in the U.S. and worldwide on Netflix” where the service is available. By timing the release more or less simultaneously online and in theaters, Netflix could be tipping off its Oscar ambitions since the Academy only grants awards eligibility to feature films that are first released in theaters before they are shown anywhere else.

Netflix has been stocking up its portfolio of original content with an eye toward challenging major film and television studios as well as bringing home award show hardware. Last fall, the company made its initial entry into the movie-making business by saying it would jointly produce a sequel to Ang Lee’s critically-acclaimed film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. That film, which will be produced with The Weinstein Company and be released this August, could also make an awards season push after the first installment took home four Oscars 15 years ago.

The company’s previous movie deals also include a series of films made by comedian Adam Sandler as well as by independent filmmaking brothers Mark and Jay Duplass. Of course, making movies is not a cheap business, as Netflix reportedly has budgeted more than $50 million per film in the case of the Crouching Tiger sequel and the Sandler movies, according to Variety.

For Netflix, increasing its exclusive content can help further drive up its subscription numbers, in the U.S. as well as overseas, where the company has faced widening losses as part of its launches in Europe and, later this month, in Australia and New Zealand.

That strategy has already resulted in an influx of major accolades for the streaming service, which garnered 31 total Emmy nominations last year for its original television shows — more than double its total in 2013. It only won seven of those awards, coming in behind most traditional broadcasters, including HBO’s leading 99 nominations.

Netflix did win big at this year’s Golden Globe Awards with Kevin Spacey taking home an award for best performance in a TV drama for his role on House of Cards. Rival Amazon, which has beefed up its own portfolio of original content recently, also won a few major awards that night for its comedy series Transparent. Like Netflix, Amazon (AMZN) is looking to get into the movie production game, promising earlier this year to eventually churn out around a dozen independent films — with budgets between $5 million and $25 million — every year.

So far, Netflix’s only two Academy Award nominations have come for documentaries the service put out in each of the past two years.