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'Mitt' will be on Netflix before Sundance is over

Published January 17, 2014 7:08 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So, you don't have a ticket to see "Mitt," the much-talked-about documentary about Mitt Romney that's debuting at the Sundance Film Festival.

You can still see it. And you don't have to wait until after the film festival ends.

"Mitt" will be available on Netflix on Friday, Jan. 24 — just six days after the world premiere.

"It's a very rare case where something world premieres at Sundance and then will be coming to the Netflix service during the course of the festival," said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix vice president of original documentary and comedy. "It's pretty exciting. We're incredibly humbled by the selection. We can't thank Sundance enough."

This won't be the Netflix team's first trip to the film festival. But "Mitt" marks the first time the online streaming service has taken a documentary it helped to produce to Sundance.

"Our traditional acquisition teams have always gone to Sundance," Nishimura said. "We have always looked to acquire content, in partnership with the different studios we've been working with.

"The shift for us is that we are now both acquiring and producing documentaries and docuseries for Netflix and presenting them on a global premiere basis across our 41 countries to our 40 million-plus subscribers."

HBO has been a major contributor to and buyer of Sundance documentaries for years. CNN has increased its presence as well — the cable news channel acquired the rights to "Blackfish."

"We're incredibly proud of 'Blackfish,' as evidenced by the fact that it was just nominated for a BAFTA Award for best documentary," said CNN president Jeff Zucker. "It's on the short list for the Oscars.

"I think a lot of the networks on television that used to be an outlet for a lot of those documentaries have moved into more reality and competition-reality programming, so there was an opening for us to actually move into that space a little bit. I think that benefited us, and I think it's actually turned out to be a good thing for those documentary filmmakers as well."

CNN aired "Blackfish" repeatedly, giving the documentary the kind of exposure it never could have gotten in theaters. And that's also one of the aims of Netflix.

"I think filmmakers are really looking for two things," Nishimura said. "I think they're looking to be fairly compensated for their life's work. And I think they're looking to get the biggest possible audience that they can.

"We feel incredibly excited and quite confident that through our platform we can actually reach the broadest audience possible for these documentaries."

Sundance can get "Mitt" the buzz; Netflix can get it seen.

And the plan is that "Mitt" will be the first of many such projects to come.

"We will be on the ground at Sundance looking to acquire titles," Nishimura said. "And we're also in very deep discussions with some formidable documentarians about original productions as well. Both on the feature side as well as the docuseries side."

And Nishimura said she's excited to be going to Sundance with "Mitt." She recalled her jaw dropping when she screened it and realized that the opening scene is shot inside the room as Romney realizes he's lost the presidential election to Barack Obama.

"That level of intimate access is what's so extraordinary," Nishimura said. "You really get to see a political campaign from a vantage point that has never been expressed before.

"It's a singular film. I've never seen anything like it. I'm excited for the world to get a chance to see it."

spierce@sltrib.com

Twitter: @ScottDPierce