Netflix has confirmed that it will premiere Mark Osborne’s The Little Prince via its streaming service in the United States, just days after Paramount Animation confirmed it was dumping the film from its theatrical release schedule.

Paramount had planned to release the film in the United States tomorrow, March 18. For reasons that remain unknown — though plenty of rumors are flying around — Paramount opted not to release the film stateside.

The Little Prince, based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 novella, won the César Award last month for France’s best animated feature of 2015. With nearly $90 million in global box office gross, it is France’s most successful animated feature export of all time. Paramount Pictures handled the film’s release in France.

Netflix has not yet confirmed when it will premiere the film, but is expected to do so sometime this year.

While the film’s lack of theatrical release in the United States is certainly disappointing, especially for a feature reputed to have cost around $80 million to make, the dynamics of feature film consumption are rapidly changing, and the film has a shot of reaching a potentially larger audience through Netflix than through traditional theatrical distribution.

As I pointed out to a commenter earlier today, the stigma is easing on the distinction between theatrical and non-theatrical releases for feature animation, and the various VOD models should eventually mature into a reliable alternative to theatrical distribution.

Think about it this way: Five years ago, it would have been unthinkable for Netflix to pick up a major animated feature for exclusive online domestic distribution; ten years ago, it would have been impossible because Netflix didn’t even offer a streaming service yet. Online feature film distribution is a young and rapidly-evolving space, and it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

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