If there is one thing Netflix subscribers are accustomed to, it’s the ability to watch new movies and television shows in their entirety the second they release (so long as it is a Netflix Original). Unlike other studios like Universal and Amazon, Netflix doesn’t normally have much of a waiting period between big theatrical releases and streaming dates, if any, but that might change in a big way with the upcoming release of Knives Out 2.
Netflix movies have received limited theatrical runs in the past, some even securing exclusivity deals, but these windows are short, usually no more than a few weeks. And, as Bloomberg reports, Netflix has never released movies via the two largest movie theater chains in the world: AMC and Cineworld. Should Netflix try to properly compete on a global scale with other movie studios, the company will need to secure a deal with these two cinema chains.
Knives Out 2 poses an excellent opportunity for Netflix to experiment with a different kind of release plan, something more akin to what Warner Bros. is doing with its streaming service HBO Max or Paramount with Paramount+, i.e. giving movies an exclusive theatrical run for 45 days (or 30 to 45 in Paramount’s case) before sending them to each company’s respective streaming platform.
Netflix considers theatrical options amid concerns over subscriber losses
There’s certainly some irony in this new situation. Netflix was long considered to be the “death of cinema” in many ways. I’m sure you can recall the seemingly endless discourse when Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman went to the streaming service instead of securing a worldwide cinema run.
Netflix came close to securing an exclusive deal, but it fell through when cinemas rejected the idea of a 45-day window of exclusivity. Nowadays, 45 days is considered par for the course due to the pandemic radically altering the entertainment business.
Now, Netflix might need movie theaters to help rejuvenate its business. People thought movie theaters might never recover due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home have proven that isn’t necessarily true. Several theatrical chains have even attacked Netflix’s business model because they’ve been unable to come to terms on a deal with the streamer, the dealbreaker often coming down to the exact timeframe Netflix would allow theaters to have exclusivity.
Still, movie theaters are not fully back in the black, as they say. Even though the tentpole franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe can get people into seats, Bloomberg reports that ticket prices are still 40% down. Theaters blame the lack of new titles, with so many diverting to streaming now.
Netflix will have to invest in marketing campaigns if they hope to release films in theaters
It’s not just that Netflix needs to consider a long window for exclusivity, but they will also need to invest in marketing. As most Netflix fans know, the streaming service does not heavily invest in marketing. They’ve never really needed to before, but now that Netflix is bleeding subscribers they might need to reconsider their promotional efforts. There won’t be much point in sending movies to theaters if Netflix isn’t going to shell out some cash to promote them the way other studios do with their own films.
Netflix and movie theaters have been locked in a stalemate for years now, but Netflix is already changing some things like adding an ad-supported tier and cracking down on password sharing despite previously appearing lax on the practice. Perhaps now is the right time for Netflix to enter the cinema world in a big way.
Of course, there will always be risks. If people see Netflix films in theaters, will they still watch them when they release on streaming? On the other hand, word of mouth can be a powerful tool and those who enjoy a movie in the theater might recommend it to people to watch when it does stream, which could enhance views.
We also know that people tend to watch and rewatch movies they like and HBO Max and Disney+ don’t appear to have trouble getting eyes on their former theatrical releases once they arrive on their subsequent platforms. It’s all a gamble, but Netflix has come to a point where it needs to take risks or it will potentially become a relic of the past in the ongoing streaming wars.
Why Knives Out 2 is an opportune movie to test out full-fledged theatrical campaigns for Netflix films
And that leads us back to Knives Out 2. It’s one of Netflix biggest “blockbuster” movies, especially since the first film did very well in theaters, earning $311.4 million at the box office. Rian Johnson returns to direct the sequel, which features an impressive, star-studded cast including people like Daniel Craig, Ethan Hawke, Kate Hudson and Kathryn Hahn.
Netflix spent a lot of money to purchase the two Knives Out sequels, releasing them on their platform with little marketing doesn’t necessarily seem like the wisest way to use their investments.
Both films could make millions at the box office and see a significant return for Netflix. The first movie was well-received by fans and critics alike. With solid marketing (and hopefully a genuinely good follow-up) there is a lot of opportunity here for a strong financial decision and a good way for Netflix to prove it’s capable of competing in cinemas.
If not Knives Out then Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Bardo, which Netflix also purchased recently, might make a good option, or perhaps both films. Then there are the upcoming Red Notice sequels, the Extraction sequel and then Zack Snyder projects like Rebel Moon and the Army of the Dead sequel, all of which could be excellent blockbuster popcorn movies worthy of being seen on the big screen.
Knives Out 2 and Bardo are expected to release sometime this fall.