Hulu releases Fyre Festival documentary just days before premiere of Netflix version

The two competing docs both examine how the disastrous music festival descended into chaos.
Image: Billy McFarland, right, at the Fyre Festival in 2017. McFarland was later convicted of fraud and sentenced to six years in prison.
Billy McFarland, right, at the Fyre Festival in 2017. McFarland was later convicted of fraud and sentenced to six years in prison.Netflix

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By Daniel Arkin

Hulu apparently wants to fight Fyre with Fyre.

The streaming service on Monday dropped a new documentary about the wildly disastrous Fyre Festival — a surprise release that arrives just days before a rival project is set to debut on Netflix.

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The two competing films chronicle how the failed 2017 music festival, hyped as a "once-in-a-lifetime" getaway in the Bahamas, descended into chaos.

The organizers had promised "two transformative weekends" of Instagram-ready opulence — world-class cuisine, private jets, yachts. But performers bailed, security faltered and accommodations fell through. Twitter lit up with photos of unhappy ticket-holders, some of whom had shelled out as much as $250,000, picking at cheese sandwiches and camping out in FEMA tents.

Hulu's "Fyre Fraud" bills itself as a "true-crime comedy" and comes from Emmy-nominated directors Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason. Netflix's "Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened" is helmed by Emmy-nominated director Chris Smith ("American Movie") and premieres on Friday.

The dueling docs are signs of the increasingly fierce rivalry between streaming platforms in the battle for eyeballs, buzz and cultural currency. Hulu's bid to leapfrog Netflix suggests the former was aiming to throw the latter off its game and steal some of the spotlight.

The nearly-parallel productions recall two pairs of 1998 movie releases — the insect-themed animated flicks "Antz" and "A Bug's Life," both released in the fall of that year, and the disaster epics "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon," both released in the summer.

Fyre's chief organizer, Billy McFarland, was sentenced in early October to a combined prison term of six years for fraud. McFarland, 26, apologized during his sentencing, claiming a "fear of letting everybody down" was to blame for the Caribbean debacle.