Netflix has not only dropped its own first trailer and poster for director Andy Serkis’ ambitious Jungle Book adaptation Mowgli—now retitled Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle—but the streaming service has changed course on its release strategy and will be dropping the film in theaters at the end of November and on the streaming service next month. The story of Mowgli is long and winding, as Serkis originally directed the film for Warner Bros. as a grounded live-action take on Rudyard Kipling’s story with cutting-edge motion-capture effects for the animals.
But while filming began in March 2015, after which an intense period of post-production was underway, Disney released its own grounded and somewhat gritty The Jungle Book in 2016. WB and Serkis no doubt assumed Disney’s version would be colorful and musical, thereby making Mowgli stand apart, but that wasn’t the case, so the release date was pushed back and Serkis kept tinkering with the film via motion-capture. Then in July 2018, just three months before it was set to hit theaters, it was announced that Warner Bros. was offloading the movie altogether and selling worldwide rights to Netflix, which was expected to release it sometime in 2019.
But today we get a surprise twist in the Mowgli narrative, as Netflix has released a trailer and poster announcing a 2018 release date. Warner Bros. had already released a trailer and other marketing materials before it sold off the film, so this is a unique scenario of getting to see how two different studios aim to market this movie. Not only that, but Netflix’s decision to release Oscar-contending films like ROMA and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs in theaters before they hit the streaming service—breaking Netflix’s long-held rule about day-and-date releases—is now expanding to include Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.
Yes indeed, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is getting an exclusive limited theatrical engagement beginning November 29, 2018 in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and London before launching globally on Netflix and in additional U.S. and U.K. theaters on December 7, 2018. Warner Bros. had intended a 3D release for the movie, so it’ll be interesting to see if Netflix gets a much wider theatrical release than it’s previously gotten with this family blockbuster, or if it’ll remain limited due to theater chains refusing to showcase Netflix movies until the streaming service offers a much bigger window between theatrical release and streaming availability. It’s possible this theatrical release is mostly to qualify for the Best Visual Effects Oscar, thereby increasing Netflix’s awards profile.
We’ll no doubt learn more soon as this was a bit of a surprise announcement, but check out the new Mowgli trailer and poster below. The film stars Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Freida Pinto, Matthew Rhys, Naomi Harrie, newcomer Rohan Chand, and Andy Serkis himself.