As a TV studio, Netflix has gained a reputation for being prolific, releasing a new show every few weeks, and dumping whole seasons of content online at a time. But as a film studio, it’s aiming even higher, and its latest investment is its riskiest one to date. The streaming service will reportedly spend $50 million on the budget of Bong Joon-ho’s latest film Okja, the follow-up to the Korean director’s international hit Snowpiercer. If that seems like a lot, it is—but it’s part of a larger international gamble that could help the company grow outside the U.S.
Netflix already has some 65 million subscribers around the world, but its international base is less than a third of that number, and that’s a number the company needs to grow to satisfy its shareholders as its stock values continue to fluctuate wildly. Okja may seem like a strange venture, but according to The Hollywood Reporter, its release will come soon after the 2016 launch of Netflix in Korea. Snowpiercer was a moderate cult hit in America, but it was one of Korea’s biggest box-office hits in history, and Joon-ho’s next film should boast a similar overseas take.
Like Snowpiercer, Okja will have an international cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Tilda Swinton, and Bill Nighy, along with an unknown young woman as the lead (the film is about her friendship with an animal named Okja). But Bong won’t need to negotiate deals with American studios to secure worldwide release: While the Weinstein Company notoriously battled with him over trying to re-cut the movie for American audiences (it was eventually released uncut), Netflix has promised Bong creative control over his film.