When the knives come out, the people head to theaters. Rian Johnson proved as much in 2019 by introducing the world to the wonderful gentleman sleuth, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig with a Kentucky fried southern drawl). A twisty whodunit with a star-studded cast? “Knives Out” was destined for success, but nothing like what it ultimately accomplished. The mid-budget mystery quickly garnered critical acclaim and word-of-mouth buzz. With the help of a long Thanksgiving weekend, the movie soared.
Across the five-day holiday time frame, “Knives Out” made back its $40 million dollar budget and quickly started turning a profit. When all was said and done, Rian Johnson’s whodunit was a hit that earned $165.3 million domestically and $147.5 million internationally. The grand total was $312.8 million. So naturally, the return of Benoit Blanc — with a new cast, a new locale, and a new murder — should be a promising prospect for a dismal fall box office. Except that Rian Johnson’s budding franchise is no longer in the hands of Lionsgate. Netflix bought the rights to two sequels, including the one that took last weekend’s box office by storm: “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”
Contrary to what its theatrical potential would have you believe, the opportunity to peel back the “Glass Onion” in theaters has officially passed. Only a week after it first debuted, the latest Benoit Blanc mystery is nowhere to be found. But unlike the solution to Blanc’s latest case, the explanation for this is pretty straightforward: Netflix isn’t in the business of selling movie tickets. Even when it comes to their theatrical releases, the goal is always to grow the subscriber count.
Peeling Back Netflix’s Grandmaster Plan
Netflix has never been one to prioritize theatrical runs: not only are they costly, but the profit is shared with theaters. When Netflix does go the theatrical route, it’s usually very limited and the movie ends up debuting on the streaming service within a matter of days. But for “Glass Onion,” the execs decided to try something new. The streamer opted for a very intentional, one-week exclusive theatrical run. The idea is to drum up excitement via exclusivity. The limited release is meant to generate word-of-mouth, high praise, and critical acclaim. That way, when it lands on Netflix a month later, people will undoubtedly tune in. Right?
But there’s never been a better excuse for Netflix to try their hand at a full-throttle theatrical run. After all, this is “Knives Out,” a franchise that they dropped $450 million dollars to acquire. What better way is there to get their money’s worth than with movie tickets? But Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has never changed his position on the matter. Just last month, during the streamer’s Q3 earnings call, he reaffirmed himself, saying:
“There are all kinds of debates all the time, back and forth. But there is no question internally that we make our movies for our members, and we really want them to see them on Netflix.”
But while this has the potential to work in Netflix’s favor, theaters would much prefer to screen the film for an extended period of time
Theaters Wanted More Time To Solve The Mystery
Just one glance at the box office says it all: this year’s Thanksgiving box office was the lowest that it’s been in 30 years (including the two that happened at the height of the pandemic). Last weekend’s newcomers bombed big time — titles like “Strange Worlds,” “Devotion” and “The Fablemans” barely cleared the $10 million mark. Meanwhile, “Glass Onion” wrapped up a week-long run with an estimated $15 million under its belt. That’s an impressive feat on its own, but especially when you consider its incredibly limited release: only around 600 theaters in North America were given the film. If it could make that much, that quickly, on that few screens, what could it do with more time?
The folks at cinemas across the country were hoping to find out. Variety reports that cinema owners “approached Netflix with a plea.” They asked if the streamer would extend the theatrical run of “Glass Onion” for a longer period of time. Unfortunately, Netflix turned them down, holding firm to their original plan.
By keeping the release short, is Netflix leaving money on the table? Given the lackluster response to last week’s new releases, “Glass Onion” would have been largely unchallenged until December 16, when “Avatar: The Way of Water” arrives in theaters. But the fear for Netflix leadership was that a longer theatrical run would sap away the interest, viewers and new subscribers that they expect to see when December 23 rolls around.
Is Netflix Leaving Money On The Table?
Netflix, better than most, knows how short memory can be when it comes to new titles. The average moviegoer probably isn’t aware of Netflix’s elaborate scheme and after hearing so much holiday chatter about “Glass Onion,” probably assumed they could catch it in theaters this weekend, or next. When it’s nowhere to be found, will they seek out answers? Expect to find it on Netflix immediately, or completely forget in the interim? Most likely, it’ll hit Netflix on December 23, and people will be pleasantly surprised to finally have a chance to see that movie they heard so much about. But will this strategy have translated into dollars, or will the limited theatrical run end up being a missed opportunity?
Time may tell us the answer, but Netflix certainly won’t. I’m sure that when December rolls around, we’ll hear lots of vague viewership stats about “Glass Onion” breaking records but it’s always so hard to figure out what the Netflix-curated stats really mean. The true test lies even further down the line: when “Knives Out 3” hits theaters (or doesn’t), will Netflix rinse and repeat, debut the film on Netflix or finally embrace the power of theaters?
With its theatrical run officially wrapped, your next chance to see “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” comes on December 23, 2022, when the movie arrives on Netflix.
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The post Netflix Rejected Pleas To Keep Glass Onion in Theaters Longer appeared first on /Film.
Source: Slash Film