In the last couple of years, we had the Covid pandemic, as well as the advent of many other streaming services, to rival the traditional Netflix. With these two factors interacting, it is sometimes difficult to say why certain films released in this period never saw a theatrical run. To be sure, being on this list doesn’t mean that the films here were never ever displayed in a theatre – just that they didn’t have a worldwide theatrical release at any point.
Mulan is a live-action adaptation of the Disney animation released back in 1998, and has been a long time in the making – the plans started back in 2010 but the project was shelved initially, before finally being shot at the end of 2018. Originally planned for a November 2018 release, it was delayed for 2020, and then delayed yet again due to the pandemic. Ultimately, it was released on Disney +, and plans for a theatrical release were cancelled – except in a select few countries, such as China, where Disney + was not available.
The original Borat, released back in 2006, grossed around $262 worldwide – however, its 2020 sequel never made it to theatres, instead releasing exclusively on Amazon Prime. Amazon spent over $20 million on marketing, and also relied heavily on viral marketing, but its release, in the autumn of many lockdowns worldwide, stayed on the streaming platform only.
One of Spike Lee’s most recent projects, Da 5 Bloods was supposed to release in theatres around May and June 2020, before hitting Netflix after its run. However, due to Covid, this never came to happen, and therefore the release was purely on Netflix, becoming available on 12 June 2020.
Starring Amy Adams and Gary Oldman, and based on a very successful 2018 novel, The Woman in the Window seemed like a guaranteed crowd pleaser. However, it never really saw crowds, as its theatrical release in October 2019 was delayed due to Walt Disney re-editing the film after some test screenings, and the new release date was set to May 2020. We all know why that didn’t work out, and the release was initially delayed, then cancelled altogether – with the rights being sold to Netflix. And maybe for the best, as it was not warmly received, and so it avoided bombing at the box office.
Based on the 2007 novel by John Preston, which is centred upon the 1939 evacuation of Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, the film stars Carrey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes, among others. Originally scheduled for a theatrical release in 2021, it only saw a very limited release, followed by becoming available for streaming on Netflix. Which went quite well, as it was the third most watched film in its opening weekend.