Netflix, What Are You Even Doing?
Netflix making their own films has been a mixed bag. On the upside, they’ve given us Sian Heder’s bittersweet parenting drama Tallulah, Cary Fukunaga’s heartbreaking child soldier drama Beasts of No Nation, Bong Joon-ho’s imaginative and wild adventure Okja, and most recently Mike Flanagan’s harrowing Stephen King adaptation Gerald’s Game. Then on the shit side, it’s given us the tone-deaf nonsense that is Adam Wingard’s Death Note and an ongoing trash fire of Adam Sandler and Sandler-adjacent movies like The Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over and True Memoirs of an International Assassin. But there’s many more you’ve probably never heard of (You Get Me, Spectral, Take the 10, Mercy, iBoy, Arq, etc.) And that last category is about to grow exponentially with news Netflix will release 80 new films next year.
Let me say that again: 80 new films next year.
Deadline reports that could mean a new movie every 4 1/2 days, a major uptick from their latest model that released 8 films in the last quarter. Frankly, it seems an insane endeavor, vastly surpassing major studio outputs. And a growing complaint of critics is that Netflix is unceremoniously dumping so much original content on their service as it is that it’s impossible to keep up. (Even if it’s your job to do just that!) It used to be that the release of a new Netflix show/movie was guaranteed water cooler conversation, making most a must-see to be a decent human in society. But with the growing frenzy of dump dates, it’s more like, “Have you seen Gerald’s Game?” “What’s that?”
Netflix’s haphazard promotion of their movies has been a growing concern for industry reporters who worry that good films get too quickly lost in the shuffle of scrolling titles. But there could be an upside to Netflix’s ravenous desire for distribution. They’ll be on the hunt at festivals looking to buy movies, which is potentially great news for indie filmmakers. Yes, their movie might get lost in the morass of Netflix’s library. But Ava DuVernay, who released her prison industrial complex documentary The 13th on Netflix, had previously praised the service, pointing out it makes films accessible to a much wider audience than the art house theater circuit allows. (She famously noted her film Selma couldn’t play in Selma, because there was no art house theater there to show it.) But can you build a career on Netflix releases?
Because Netflix does not publicly release their numbers, we’re all left wondering how well their original content does on their service. Comparisons to traditional theatrical releases are impossible. So, it’s hard for Hollywood to gauge success with Netflix being so secretive. But this isn’t scaring established filmmakers, who are happy to work with the emerging streaming studio that’s making it rain with production budgets and award campaigns.
Netflix is already promoting the $50 million Okja for the award season push. This past weekend saw the Netflix release of Noah Baumbach’s Adam Sandler-fronted The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), which is getting award season whispers. This December will bring the $80 million David Ayer/Max Landis fantasy/cop drama Bright, which stars Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, and Noomi Rapace. And early next year, Netflix will be rolling out Martin Scorsese’s latest, The Irishman, a $100 million biopic that reunites Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
All of this means the battle over whether or not Netflix is good for film will continue to rage.
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