Kanye West is getting the big-screen treatment.
In a move that bucks Netflix convention, Act 1 of the highly anticipated three-part West documentary jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy will get a nationwide release in theaters from Iconic Events, the company behind David Byrne’s American Utopia.
The doc, directed by Coodie & Chike, will hit theaters on Feb. 10, one week before the start of Netflix’s rollout. jeen-yuhs had been poised to be one of the hottest tickets at Sundance with its scheduled world premiere on Jan. 23. But on Jan. 5, the film festival scrapped plans for an in-person event due to Covid case spikes and is pivoting to a virtual-only fest, making Iconic Event’s exclusive theatrical window all the more significant.
Netflix will release the trilogy, which tracks the music icon’s career and features never-before-seen footage, over the course of three weeks. Coodie & Chike, the duo behind such West videos as “Through the Wire” and “Jesus Walks (Version 3),” have been shooting footage for 21 years and captured behind-the-scenes moments from both the star’s failed presidential run in 2020 as well as from the death of his mother, Donda West, in 2007.
Netflix rarely allows its films to be released theatrically before they bow on the streaming platform, and jeen-yuhs would mark the first time the company did so with a high-profile film that was not vying for Oscar consideration. The closest approximation is the Breaking Bad sequel El Camino, which was released simultaneously on Netflix and in theaters in October 2019, with the theatrical window lasting just three days.
Over the past decade, music docs have become big business in theaters and on streaming platforms. The Michael Jackson doc This Is It scored $261 million worldwide in 2009, while Justin Bieber: Never Say Never earned $99 million globally in 2011. Those economics have prompted more recent bidding wars for similar docs, with Apple shelling out $26 million for Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry and Amazon paying $25 million for an upcoming Peter Berg-directed Rihanna film. Netflix acquired jeen-yuhs in May for a reported $30 million.
With musical touring on ice due to the ongoing Covid pandemic but most movie theaters open across the country, jeen-yuhs could make some noise at the box office during its one-week run. The film chronicles West’s formative days trying to break out through his life today as a globally recognized brand and enigmatic artist. Iconic Events, whose recent titles include Bo Burnham: Inside and a re-release of Selena tied to that film’s 25th anniversary will distribute jeen-yuhs in several hundred theaters.
“For any fan or student of music today, this documentary is a must-see event and should be experienced in a movie theater with state-of-the-art sound systems,” said Iconic Events Releasing CEO Steve Bunnell. “Few artists or businessmen have had a greater impact on worldwide popular culture than Kanye West over the last 20 years. jeen-yuhs is a film that offers rare and compelling insight into his world.”
Added co-director Coodie: “Everybody is born with a genius. When god blesses you with a vision and you move with belief in your purpose, you’ll be awakening to the fact that no matter what obstacles you face you will see that vision become reality. Trust god. Period.”
TIME Studios, which produced jeen-yuhs and is partnering with Iconic Events on the theatrical rollout, is the Emmy-winning production company behind such docs as John Lewis: Good Trouble (CNN Films) and Amazing Grace (Neon). Filmmakers Coodie & Chike most recently directed the doc A Kid From Coney Island, which charts the rise and fall and rebirth of ex-NBA star Stephon Marbury, through their Creative Control banner.