By Alberto Cox Délano | Film | March 15, 2023 |
By Alberto Cox Délano | Film | March 15, 2023 |
This might be a case of two parties being in the wrong at the same time.
Yesterday, Deadline and other trades reported that Netflix was moving towards pulling the plug on Nancy Meyer’s first movie in almost a decade. There goes my prediction about the future of film. The film was doing the first rounds of casting, with Scarlett Johansson, Owen Wilson, Penélope Cruz, and Michael Fassbender circling the project. According to the trades, Netflix and Meyers were not able to agree on a budget. This is a roundabout way of saying that they could not agree on whether the budget should be on the low or the mid-nine figures. That is, according to the sources.
The trades were keen to tout a $130 million dollar budget in either the headlines or the lead, along with the same picture of Meyers smiling. I’m not saying that the reported figure isn’t newsworthy, but there’s a slight hint of a running thread in how the story is being reported. But then again, no one could ever accuse the main Hollywood trades of giving preference to the Studio’s version.
According to Deadline, Meyers was seeking $150 million dollars, with over half of it allocated for above-the-line items (cast, director, writers, and producers for the noobs), while Netflix insisted on the $130 million dollar figure. The reported initial budget is not outside the realm of possibility for a Nancy Meyers rom-com. Even though they are all set in present time, they were usually vehicles for A-list actors to demand their full quote, with at least two salaries in the 8-figure range, not counting Meyers’ own fee for wearing the triple filmmaker hat (producing, writing, and directing). Adjusted for inflation, the budgets for all her movies since What Women Want would be in the $120 million dollar range, with the sole exception of The Intern, which was made on a budget of $35 million dollars in 2015, right around the time when IPs became the dominant force at the box office and rom-coms were priced out of most theatrical releases.
And yet, as absurd as those budgets might appear to be, they always paid off. Always. Every single one of Nancy Meyers’ films has been a huge hit at the theatrical level, and probably even more profitable in the home market. And that’s including her previous writing and production work, which includes Father of the Bride and Private Benjamin. So in practice, more than in theory, she should be worth every penny to Netflix. Even if I am really having a hard time trying to understand how would she spend $70 million or so in below-the-line items for a romcom set in present day.
It makes even more sense considering that Meyers’ films are made to be watched on repeat, being some of the most beloved comfort-food movies, which means more viewing hours for Netflix. Certainly more than whatever they got from The
Dull Gray Man and Blurr Red Notice, both of them actioners starring an A-list cast, with budgets of at least $200 million (where at least half went to ATL items) and both of them so forgettable that, as Roxana mentioned, we forget about them so quickly we cannot even remember them as punching bags.
And yet (here is where I get myself canceled. Again perhaps).
Within Netflix’s rationale, which doesn’t have much in terms of reason and procedure, canceling this project makes sense in terms of what they can get from a romcom. Set it Up was made for about $10 million, and in terms of watch time and longevity, it will probably yield similar numbers to Meyers’ film. Same thing with that inexplicable hit called Purple Hearts, the dozens upon dozens of Christmas-themed romantic films Netflix releases every season, not to mention it romantic movies aimed at teens and even their failed, but still popular romcoms/A-lister vehicles. The accrued budget for all of these pictures in the genre is probably a bit more than the budget reported for this project by Meyers, with an exponential return on investment … or however Netflix measures these things. Following their rationale, this movie probably reported little else in the way of profit or bringing in new subscribers, and that same budget would be better spent aming again for the Oscar or in another high-concept actioner starring one of the Chrises.
Does Netflix have a point though? HELL NO! I mean, if the reported budget is real, they should’ve insisted on trying to lower the figure by giving Meyers sweetheart deals in the long term. Nancy Meyers is a brand name on par with none, with a core audience that anyone would debase themselves to have: Upper Middle-Class people all over the world. Hell, unless Meyers is opposed to it, Netflix could’ve recouped the investment just from product placements! The project will probably be picked up by Apple TV+, who unlike Netflix, not only is not in debt, but actually has too much cash.
Netflix made their bed when they started handing out tens of millions of dollars to cast above-the-line talent like Ryan Reynolds or Gal Gadot. They shouldn’t be surprised when someone with actual talent and a massive draw demands the same deals.