Netflix at the Movies

October 2, 2019

Netflix is starting to increase the number of films the company licenses and produces around the world.

After a decade of primarily focusing on episodic content, Netflix wants to break the theatrical glass ceiling, especially since they are funding more original films.

Netflix’s renewed appetite for feature films presents enormous opportunities for independent filmmakers.


Netflix Focuses on Films

Against the backdrop of expanding competition and the upcoming exodus of studio films and series content from its service, Netflix is significantly increasing the amount it will invest in producing and promoting feature films.

Netflix hopes a slate of big-budget and mid-budget films will do the trick to capture more subscribers as several new companies take direct aim at the streamer for the first time.

The company is departing from its day-and-date past with plans to release a few films per year for three weeks or more in theaters before moving online.

The hot topic of conversation within Netflix at the moment is shifting money from marketing and digital advertising to fund more movies.

Netflix’s renewed film focus was spawned in late-2017 when it announced plans to release 80 films on its platform in 2018 – one film every five days; nearly as many as the major U.S. studios combined.

At the time, the company’s content officer said the slate would include a mix of $1 million acquisitions up to big-budget fare like the 2017 Bright starring Will Smith that cost $113 million. That being said, Netflix didn’t release a big-budget film comparable to Bright in 2018.

According to research conducted by FilmTake, Netflix released 69 features and 18 documentaries in 2018. However, only a few had the necessary elements that would have supported a traditional theatrical release, namely, Roma, Bird Box, and The Cloverfield Paradox. Most of Netflix’s 2018 film slate would be considered made-for-television or direct-to-video.

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NATO Holds Steady

Netflix failed to convince any of the three major stateside exhibitors, AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, to accept a 45-day window for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which marks the company’s latest attempt to release a film wide in theaters.

Netflix’s $200 million mafia film will now only get a limited theatrical release on independent screens starting on November 1st before streaming on November 27th. It’s still unknown how many independent theaters will screen the film, or for how long.

The exclusive 90-day theatrical window has become a line in the sand that exhibitors in the United States are unwilling to cross.

Netflix is on track to spend over $550 million to make just three big budget films. Earlier this month, the company agreed to produce the Dwayne Johnson action film, Red Notice at a cost of $200 million. 


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Netflix Takes On Hollywood

Netflix solidified its position in Hollywood by recently taking the empty seat at the Motion Picture Association of America vacated when Disney acquired Fox. The six studios that make up the MPAA are Disney, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., and now Netflix.

As it was widely reported around the time of the Oscars this year, several powerful Hollywood figures opposed Netflix’s best picture campaign for its film Roma. With some difficulty, Netflix secured theater space so it would meet eligibility requirements set forth by the Academy.

In all, Roma received ten nominations, including for director, screenplay, and cinematography. The film’s director, Alfonso Cuarón is now the only person to receive simultaneous nominations for direction and cinematography. Roma won three Oscars – best foreign-language film, director, and cinematography.

Roma was the first Netflix film to receive a best picture nomination. Amazon’s Manchester By The Sea was the first from any streamer to receive a best picture nomination when it did in 2017. Netflix spent $25 million on the awards campaign for Roma, much more than the $15 million it cost to make the film.

Netflix’s current direct-to-streaming releasing model is on par with the nightmarish direct-to-video release model that was the ruin of many companies.

However, after breaking through with Oscar gold, Netflix is departing from its past with plans to release a few of its films for three weeks or more in theaters before moving online.


FilmTake Away

In hindsight, it’s becoming clear that Netflix missed a remarkable opportunity to follow through in its theatrical ambitions with the purchase of Landmark Theaters late last year.

The chain has 56 upscale theaters in the United States, mostly concentrated in larger cities, and boasts 250 screens across 27 markets.

The deal would have been a boon for Netflix during awards season and would have offered enough flexibility to screen a diverse mix of art-house and big-budget films to audiences in major cities.

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